TRAI suggests DoT to address issues related to AGR computation for cable operators

The suggestion is aimed at increasing the wired broadband penetration in the country

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Sep 1, 2021 4:09 PM

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested a slew of measures to increase the wired broadband penetration in the country as part of recommendations on 'Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband speed'.

The regulator has suggested that issues relating to computation of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) for cable operators need to be addressed on priority in order to encourage broadband services using the existing infrastructure of cable TV service providers.

The authority has already given its recommendations to the government vide its recommendations dated 6th January 2015 on 'Definition of Revenue Base (AGR) for the Reckoning of Licence Fee and Spectrum Usage Charges'.

It has suggested that Applicable Gross Revenue (ApGR) should be equal to total Gross Revenue of the licencee as reduced by: (i) revenue from operations other than telecom activities/ operations as well as revenue from activities under a licence/ permission issued by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; (ii) Receipts from the USO Fund; and (iii) items of ‘other income’ as listed in the ‘positive list’ (Table 2.1).”

In its recommendation, the TRAI has defined broadband as a data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 2 Mbps to an individual subscriber from the point of presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide broadband service.

TRAI has recommended that passive as well as active infrastructure sharing should be allowed under the Internet Service Licence, and Internet Service authorisation under the Unified Licence (UL) and UL(VNO) licences.

According to the TRAI, there were 22.94 million fixed broadband connections at the end of December 2020. In terms of penetration, it implies that only 9.1 per 100 households4 have access to fixed broadband. Also, there were only 6.89 million FTTH broadband connections at the end of December 2020, which is only about 30% of the total fixed broadband connections in the country.

Despite the rapid spread of broadband, and the increasing agreement on the opportunities it brings, nearly 45% of the India’s population still does not have access to broadband, the TRAI said.

As per Ookla speed test global index March 2021 report, India is experiencing download speeds of 12.15 Mbps in case of mobile broadband and around 56.1 Mbps in case of fixed broadband. As per this global index, India ranked 131st among 140 nations in terms of mobile broadband speed and 66th among 177 countries in fixed broadband.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as per objectives of the National Digital Communications Policy - 2018 sought recommendations of the Authority on issues relating to the broadband speed and its categorizations, infrastructure creation, and promoting broadband connectivity.

Accordingly, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a Consultation Paper (CP) on 'Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed' dated 20th August 2020 seeking comments and counter comments from stakeholders. Open House Discussion (OHD) was conducted on 18.02.2021 through video conferencing.

DoT vide it's another reference letter dated 12th March 2021 sought consolidated and updated recommendations on proliferation of fixed-line broadband services in the Country. In this reference, DoT referred additional issues relating to License Fee exemption and direct benefit to consumers. To consult these issues with stakeholders, a supplementary CP was issued on 19th May 2021. Open House Discussion (OHD) was conducted on 23.06.2021.

Based on the inputs received from the stakeholders and on its own analysis, TRAI has finalised its recommendations on Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband speed'

The salient features of the recommendations are as follows:

  1. The definition of broadband has been reviewed and the minimum download speed for broadband connectivity revised upward from the present 512Kbps to 2Mbps. Based on download speed, fixed broadband has been categorized into 3 different categories — Basic, Fast and Super-fast.

  2. To encourage lakhs of cable operators to provide broadband services, the Authority's past recommendation on 'Definition of Revenue Base (AGR) for the Reckoning of Licence Fee and Spectrum Usage Charges' has been reiterated.

  3. To enhance mobile broadband speed in rural and remote areas by fiberisation of the cellular networks, back haul connectivity on optical fibre using the BharatNet network with Service Level Agreements (SLA) should be made available to service providers.

  4. To incentivise investment in the last-mile linkage for fixed-line broadband, notify a skill development plan and an interest subvention scheme for Cable Operators registered as Micro and Small size enterprises.

  5. To enhance mobile broadband speed, radio spectrum used for back hauling connectivity of cellular networks should be assigned to service providers on demand and in time bound manner.

  6. Creation of National Portal for RoW permissions to facilitate expeditious rollout of telecom and other essential utility's infrastructure. 
  1. Incentivise establishment of common ducts and posts for fiberisation of networks. In line with BhartNet Project, exempt RoW charges for next five years for expeditious laying of common ducts and posts.

  2. A Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to incentivise States/ UTs for RoW reforms. Incentives to be linked to the net improvement in the Broadband Readiness Index (BRI) score of a State/ UT. Mandates co-deployment of common ducts during the construction of any roadway, railway, and water 86 gas pipelines receiving public funding.

  9.To facilitate the sharing of passive infrastructure such as ducts, optical fibres, posts, etc., all the passive infrastructure available in the country should be mapped by each service provider and infrastructure provider using Geographic Information System (GIS). The Telecom Engineering Center (TEC) should notify the standards for this purpose. Establishment of an e-marketplace on a common GIS platform to facilitate leasing and trading of passive infrastructure.

  1. Target linked incentive i.e., Licence Fee (LF) exemption on specified revenues to eligible licensees for proliferation of fixed-line broadband services in urban and rural areas.
  2. A pilot DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) scheme in rural areas for proliferation of fixed-line broadband subscribers. After ascertaining the practicability of the pilot DBT scheme in accelerating the growth of fixed-line broadband services; specifics of the DBT scheme like eligibility criteria for beneficiaries, quantum of benefit, period of the scheme etc. to be worked out subsequently.

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