Telcos oppose international SMS traffic redefinition

Context: In response to a consultation paper by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), telcos argued that there was no need to change the definition of ‘international traffic,’ a key term that determines what an international SMS is, and by extension, what it should cost.

Telcos oppose international SMS traffic redefinition

Unified License Agreement

A Unified License implies that a customer can get all types of telecom services, from a Unified License Operator. The operator can use wireline or wireless media.

National Telecom Policy – 2012 recognizes that the evolution from analog to digital technology has facilitated the conversion of voice, data and video to digital form. Increasingly, these are now being rendered through single networks bringing about a convergence in networks, services and also devices. 

Hence, it is now imperative to move towards convergence between various services, networks, platforms, technologies and overcome the existing segregation of licensing, registration and regulatory mechanisms in these areas to enhance affordability, increase access, delivery of multiple services and reduce cost.

Current, Unified Licensing Agreement Framework in India only regulates domestic traffic and not international traffic, a key term that determines what an international SMS is, and by extension, what it should cost.

Definition of Traffic

The load carried on a telecommunication network is called traffic, or more specifically ‘telecommunication traffic’. Telecommunication traffic comprises many things such as voice call, SMS, etc.

Types of Traffics

Looking from the standpoint of a country, telecommunication traffic comprises 

  • Domestic traffic (i.e., traffic within the country)
  • International traffic

Further, in the Indian context, where the country has been divided into 22 telecom circles/ Metro areas for the purpose of granting licenses/ authorization for access services, domestic traffic comprises intra-circle traffic, and inter-circle traffic.

INTER – CIRCLE TRAFFIC means Long-Distance traffic originating in one Telecom Circle/Metro Area and terminating in another Telecom Circle/Metro Area. E.g., Delhi Circle to Mumbai Circle.

INTRA- CIRCLE TRAFFIC means the traffic originating and terminating within boundaries of the same Telecom Circle/Metro Area. E.g., within Delhi Circle.

Definition of International Traffic

There is no definition of international traffic in the unified license of the TRAI. 

  • As ‘international SMS’ is a type of ‘international traffic’, the Authority is of the view that instead of defining international SMS in the Unified License Agreement, it would be appropriate to define the term ‘international traffic’. 
  • In case the term ‘international traffic’ is also defined in the Unified License, all types of telecommunication traffic, domestic as well as international, would have been defined in the Unified License Agreement.

This definition bears importance because, under the current regulation system, termination charges on domestic SMS are regulated whereas telecom operators are free to decide the termination charges on international SMS which is highly profitable.

International termination charge is the rate payable by an Indian International Long-Distance Operator (ILDO), who carries the call from outside the country to access provider in the country in whose network the call terminates.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), a statutory body, was established under Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. 

One of the main objectives of TRAI is to provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition.

Function of TRAI

  • To regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services which were earlier vested in the Central Government.
  • TRAI has issued from time to time a large number of regulations, orders and directives to deal with issues coming before it and 
  • The directions, orders and regulations issued cover a wide range of subjects including tariff, interconnection and quality of service as well as governance of the Authority.

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