Jio adds 22 lakh mobile users in June
Telecom subscriber base in the country grew marginally to 1,173.89 million at the end of June on account of new customer additions led by Reliance Jio, sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said on Thursday, August 22. The subscriber base growth was driven by mobile telephony where Reliance Jio added over 2.27 million new customers and Bharti Airtel added 1.4 million customers, according to the data.
"The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1,172.57 million at the end of May-23 to 1,173.89 million at the end of June-23, thereby showing a monthly growth rate of 0.11 per cent," the TRAI said in its monthly subscriber report.
However, the overall growth was mitigated by the loss of subscribers by state-owned BSNL, MTNL and Vodafone Idea (VIL). BSNL lost 1.87 million mobile subscribers, VIL lost 1.28 million subscribers and MTNL (1,52,912 subscribers), according to the data.
The net addition in wireless subscribers of telecom operators in the month of June was 3,73,602. “Total wireless subscribers increased from 1,143.21 million at the end of May-23, to 1,143.58 million at the end of June-23, thereby registering a monthly growth rate of 0.03 per cent," said TRAI.
Overall, Reliance Jio led the race with an active subscriber addition of 4.5 million in May. This was followed by Bharti Airtel Ltd which added 2.2 million subscribers.
However, Vodafone Idea lost 2.3 million subscribers. As a result, Vodafone Idea's active subscriber market share fell by 31 basis points (bps) sequentially to 21.6 per cent, while Jio and Airtel gained market share by 30bps and 8bps, respectively. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
After a marginal decline in May, wireline connections has increased in June.
The growth in the wireline segment was led by APFPL which added 6,56,424 new connections. It was followed by Reliance Jio with the addition of 2,08,014 connections, Bharti Airtel (1,34,021), V-Con Mobile and Infra (13,100), Tata Teleservices (12,617) and Quadrant added 6,540 connections in June, according to news agency PTI.
The total broadband subscribers increased to 861.47 million at the end of June 2023 from 856.81 million at the end of May with a monthly growth rate of 0.54 per cent, the report said.
"Top five service providers constituted 98.37 per cent market share of the total broadband subscribers at the end of June-23. These service providers were Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd 447.75 million, Bharti Airtel 248.06 million, Vodafone Idea 124.90 million, BSNL 24.59 million and Atria Convergence 2.16 million," the report said.
Source: Live Mint
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Trai releases consultation paper on 5G enterprise tech adoption
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday released a consultation paper seeking industry feedback on policy bottlenecks towards faster adoption of 5G-driven technologies for businesses. Written inputs can be sent in till 30 October, with counter-comments sought on 13 November.
The paper seeks to boost adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence, extended reality and the internet of things (IoT), which will be key factors that enable automation across enterprises.
The paper, seen by Mint, said that adoption of new technologies among enterprises “will require effective ecosystem collaboration between telecom service providers, original equipment manufacturers, infrastructure providers and the government to increase consumer adoption and market readiness—to unlock large-scale benefits of 5G."
It also identified the need to upgrade infrastructure to meet the standards of 5G connectivity, “fiberization" of networks to deploy 5G among enterprises, and densifying networks in order to help enterprises adopt new technologies.
Adoption of 5G via captive networks for enterprises hit a roadblock in India as telcos and large enterprises clashed over access to 5G spectrum. While companies pushed for direct allocation of 5G spectrum from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), citing greater flexibility of deployment and privacy, telecom operators lobbied against the move by stating that such allocation and deployments would be expensive, inefficient and eventually lead to operational burdens.
On 26 May, the DoT rolled out a decision in favour of telcos, deciding against allocating direct 5G spectrum to enterprises.
Telcos, however, appears to have been unsuccessful in lobbying for preferential pricing of spectrum allocation for over-the-top (OTT) streaming and communication services. While the likes of Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea wrote to Trai underlining “disproportionate" infrastructure cost incurred by telcos due to heavy data usage by services such as Netflix and WhatsApp, government officials have so far maintained that no preferential pricing of 5G network is being considered right now—in order to maintain net neutrality.
Deployment of 5G infrastructure across enterprises in India also saw a gradual slowdown among India's large-cap information technology (IT) service providers amid an overall weakening in global tech spending among enterprises. T
he slowdown in 5G spending was largely prevalent in North America, due to macroeconomic concerns and a weak overall forecast on spending viability for the rest of the year.
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Source: Live Mint
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Trai issues pre-consultation paper on inputs for National Broadcasting Policy
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has issued a pre-consultation paper on inputs for formulation of a ‘National Broadcasting Policy.’ This July, the ministry of information and broadcasting had requested the regulatory authority to give its considered inputs under the TRAI Act, 1997, for formulation of the policy.
In its letter, the ministry said that the broadcast policy needs to identify the vision of a functional, vibrant and resilient broadcasting sector which can project India's diverse culture and rich heritage and help the country's transition to a digital and empowered economy. “In the light of the potentialities and intersection with national goals, a National Broadcasting Policy stipulating the vision, mission, strategies and the action points could set the tone for a planned development and growth of the broadcasting sector in the country in the era of new and emerging technologies," a statement from Trai said.
Hence, a pre-consultation is being done with all stakeholders to elicit the issues which are required to be considered for formulation of such a policy, Trai has said. Written comments from stakeholders have been invited by 10 October.
Last month, Trai had released a consultation paper on issues faced by the broadcasting sector, seeking responses to 32 questions, ranging from tariff, interconnection, and quality of service to financial disincentives.
The authority had sought response on whether the network capacity fee (NCF) of ₹130 should be reviewed and if distribution platform owners (DPOs) should be allowed to have variable NCF for different bouquets or plans within the same location.
Trai also sought views on whether it should revise the current provision that NCF for second TV connection and onwards in multi-TV homes should not be more than 40% of declared NCF per additional TV, and in case of such homes, whether the pay television channels for each additional TV connection be also made available at a discounted price.
Source: Live Mint
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Why Trai wants to cut the entry fees for various licences
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has proposed reducing the entry fee for various licenses and services and rationalising bank guarantees that service providers pay to the government. The entry fee is a one-time payment that companies must pay when entering the Indian telecom market, and varies with the type of service they offer. Bank guarantees act as backups or contingent payments that the government can encash in case a company fails to meet the licence conditions. Mint explains the development.
Why does Trai want to reduce the entry fee?
The entry fee is usually non-refundable and is part of a firm's startup costs. It varies with the type of service that the company wants to offer. For instance a unified license, which allows all services including mobile telephony, internet broadband and landline services, has a maximum entry fee of ₹15 crore, while a virtual network operator's entry fee is ₹7.5 crore.
While some telecom service providers have called for the entry fee to be abolished, the telecom regulator has suggested a 50% reduction, saying it could cause more companies to enter the market as service providers, enhancing competition. A reasonable entry fee would maintain a balance between deterring non-serious players and ensuring adequate competition.
Trai has pointed out that providers of voice, video and data services have declined from around eight players in each licensed service area to five by 2018 and four at present – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. Since reducing the entry fee would lower a company's start-up cost, it would encourage competition and improve the quality of service.
Have entry fees been reduced in the past?
Yes. In 2005 the Department of Telecommunications reduced the entry fee for the national long distance or NLD from ₹100 crore to ₹2.5 crore and for international long distance or ILD from ₹25 crore to ₹2.5 crore. The government at the time said the reduction would promote growth and enhance competition.
By how much does Trai want to reduce the entry fee and for which licenses?
Trai has suggested the entry fee for UL for access service should be reduced from ₹1 crore to ₹50 Lakh for each telecom circle or metro area, and from ₹50 lakh to ₹25 lakh for J&K and the North East. It says the fee for NLD and ILD should be reduced from ₹2.5 crore to ₹50 lakh. The fee for public mobile radio trunking service, a two-way mobile radio service, should be reduced from ₹50,000 to ₹20,000 for each telecom circle.
The fee for an ISP "B" licence or internet service provider for metro areas should be reduced from ₹2 lakh to ₹50,000 for each telecom circle and ₹25,000 for J&K and North-East each.
The fee for an ISP "A" licence, which covers all of India, should be reduced from ₹30 lakh to ₹10 lakh, says the regulator.
The fee for UL (VNO) authorizations for access service should be reduced from ₹50 lakh per telecom circle to ₹12.5 lakh. Trai has also suggested that there should be no entry fee when renewing licenses.
What kind of bank guarantees exist and how could they be rationalised?
Bank guarantees ensure that telecom service providers pay their dues on time and fulfill their obligations in the licence agreement. Financial bank guarantees cover the liabilities from the licence fee and other dues not otherwise securitised, whale performance bank guarantees cover the violation of license conditions. Trai has suggested merging the two on the grounds that it would encourage ease of doing business and encourage growth in the sector.
How much will licence holders need to pay up under the merged bank guarantees?
For a unified license, a total of ₹44 crore has been proposed for the first year. For subsequent years, the amount should be higher than in the initial year or 20% of the estimated sum payable. The merger of both types of bank guarantees has been proposed for mobile number portability licences as well. Trai has also recommended using electronic bank guarantees to enhance the ease of doing business.
Source: Live Mint
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Why has the net neutrality debate surfaced again
New Delhi: Network neutrality, or net neutrality, became the subject of a national debate in 2016, when Facebook (now Meta) pushed for its ‘Free Basics’ service in the country. Over the past month debates around net neutrality have surfaced again, with telecom operators urging the union government to consider taking a stance that would benefit them. Mint explains why net neutrality is back in the news, why telcos are against it, and what 5G has to do with it.
What is net neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites. The core idea behind it is that services accessed through the internet should not differ in terms of the cost of accessing them. This principle has been in place to ensure a level playing field for all websites and a uniform cost of data for customers.
For instance, with net neutrality in place, no user will need to spend more data to access, say, Netflix. The reason is that if such preferential data usage charges are applied, users will move towards what is affordable, and telecom operators end up becoming gatekeepers of information and services on the internet.
Why are telcos against it?
In a recent submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Vodafone-Idea said that they should be allowed to set a higher cost for services such as WhatsApp and Netflix. Their rationale is that these apps are among the most widely accessed and put lopsided pressure on their infrastructure, increasing their operating costs.
What have these companies said?
A submission by Bharti Airtel dated 1 September read that “large traffic originators that account for a disproportionate amount of these investments must contribute a fair share" of the network cost incurred by telcos. This cost, Airtel said, should be covered “through a direct contribution to telecom service providers (TSPs)" to meet “the vision of Digital India".
Jio's submission on the same also suggested that “both communication and other OTT players contribute towards the cost of this infrastructure development, through direct compensation to TSPs".
What has the government said so far?
In 2016 the government ruled in favour of net neutrality with Trai's Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016. The rule prevents discriminatory tariff for data services between a telco and an OTT service and therefore prevents them from striking any such deals. Now, despite telecom operators seeking a revision to these rules, reports have claimed that the government's stance on net neutrality is unlikely to change.
What does the government intend to do?
The Department of Telecommunications is learnt to have clarified to stakeholders that it does not plan to introduce any revenue-sharing model between the telcos and OTT service providers. Officials have told Mint that there's no such proposal being considered.
To remove any ambiguity on the issue, the government is also learnt to have removed OTT platforms from the definition of 'communication service' in the new telecom bill. Some officials have said that anything to do with these platforms will be under the purview of the IT ministry.
What does 5G have to do with all this?
According to Airtel's submission, “In order to adopt, integrate and sustain new technologies, massive investments are required in the network infrastructure on a continuous basis. The ongoing 5G rollout requires intense fiberization and densification of antennas, the need for which is only going to increase with the future deployments in 6G. These developments will intensify pressure and will have a significant impact on the viability of mobile network operators as well as of other actors in the value chain."
In other words, the telcos claim that 5G networks are expensive to deploy and maintain, and heavy traffic to specific applications increases their costs. They believe OTT services and applications should compensate them for this, which in turn would increase data costs for users.
Source: Live Mint
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