The Economic Times reports that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is set to publish a consultation paper on value added services in the country, in order to “see how to bring VAS into the active mainstream.” The move comes after a long period of disharmony in the country between VAS providers and mobile operators with regard to revenue share deals, with the former group arguing that they provide a wide range of services to customers but, with the lack of a regulated structure for these activities, they receive inadequate financial returns from operators. The move does not mark TRAI’s first foray into the mobile VAS space: in 2009 it published recommendations related to the growth of this sector, which included guidance that value added service providers do not need any form of licence or registration to operate, and arguing that “the telecom access service providers need to provide fair access to their telecom infrastructure to independent content providers and maintain transparency in their management information system relating to value added services for reconciliation.” At this point, it also said that “mutual commercial agreements between telecom access service providers and content providers/ content aggregators for revenue share in the provisioning of value added services remains the model.”

The move comes as TRAI’s subscriber figures for the Indian market in September 2010 sparked debate among the operator community, with many parties taking the opportunity to criticise the subscriber totals promoted by their rivals. The issue revolves around the definition of active subscribers, with TRAI now providing a breakdown by mobiles identified in the visitor location register (VLR) – this showed that across-the-board, 70 percent of the total customer base was active. The Economic Times reports that Bharti Airtel and Idea criticised “dual technology” companies Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications over the number of active subscribers they had across their networks – Tata’s figures are around 45 percent, with Reliance at around 67 percent, compared with 89 percent for Bharti and 88 percent for Idea. Tata countered this by arguing that there were discrepancies between the ways the figures had been provided to the operators, and that in future it would adopt the same model as its rivals. The focus on the size of the subscriber base comes against a backdrop of debate about spectrum allocations in India, with operators using the size of their customer bases as an argument for the allocation of more frequencies – an argument that is weakened if a significant portion of this total is inactive.