Telecom regulator pitches for voice, data convergence.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is planning a convergence of voice data services. It is expected to send a proposal to the government for allowing cable operators in rural areas to offer basic telephony and Internet services.
Trai is also to suggest a reduction in the licence fee and spectrum charges for rural cellular services. It is also proposed that Internet protocol (IP)-based telephony is permitted and the licensing structure amended, allowing broadband providers to offer voice services in rural India.
Trai Chairman Pradip Baijal said a consultation paper on rural telephony was expected next month. The paper will recommend using cable operators as agents to connect rural households through telephones.
The paper is also expected to suggest amendments to licensing norms so that cable operators in villages can carry voice and data on their networks.
The government, which will issue the guidelines after studying Trai’s proposals, will decide if cable operators can offer services outside the ambit of the unified licence.
As per the options being weighed by Trai, cable operators can have tie-ups with telephone service providers or set up their own infrastructure.
Cable operators can provide the “last-mile connectivity” through their networks, though the wire used by them will need to be changed to accommodate additional services.
At present, cable operators like Hathway provide television channels and Internet browsing facilities in bigger cities. Unified licence holders like Bharti and Reliance can offer Internet, phone and cable services.
While service providers have not offered these three services together to landline subscribers, the services come packaged on high-end mobile phones.
The department of telecommunications is simultaneously initiating amendments to the Telegraph Act to let cellular operators have access to the universal service obligation (USO) fund. At present, the USO fund is available only to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for its fixed-line services in rural areas.
“The government has invested heavily in rural telephony and it subsidises the cost of the telephone instrument, but these have not produced the requisite results. We are working out models to force the rural market to proliferate,”