Airtel Challenges Trai’s Interconnect Regulation in Delhi High Court

Airtel Challenges Trai's Interconnect Regulation in Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court Friday sought Trai’s response on Bharti Airtel’s plea challenging the regulator’s Interconnect Usage Charges Regulations fixing termination charges for landline to wireless as zero paise and wireless to wireless at 14 paise per minute.

Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) or termination charges are payable by one telco, whose subscriber makes a call, to another whose subscriber receives the call. The charge is payable by the first for using the second’s network.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and sought its reply by the next date of hearing on March 1.

The court also tagged the matter with a similar plea moved by Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd in November last year.

In its plea, Airtel has sought quashing of the Telecom Interconnect Usage Charges Regulations issued by Trai on February 23 last year.

The telecom major has also sought directions to Trai “to fix termination charges by applying the cost based and work done principle on a non-discriminatory basis”.

Vodafone in its plea has claimed that the regulations are illegal, bad in fact and in law, arbitrary and in gross violation of the principles of natural justice, beyond the functions of Trai.

Vodafone had told the court that the fixation of terms of interconnectivity, which includes the termination charge by Trai, cannot be zero where costs are incurred by the terminating operator and therefore, the regulations fixing the charge as zero is ultra vires the provisions of Trai Act.

AT&T Testing Superfast 5G Mobile Network

AT&T Testing Superfast 5G Mobile Network

AT&T announced plans Friday to begin testing a superfast fifth generation, or 5G, mobile network with speeds up to 100 times faster than the most rapid existing connections.

The US telecom group said it would begin the field tests later this year in collaboration with US semiconductor giant Intel and Swedish networking group Ericsson.

Global telecom operators are readying for 5G deployment in 2020 but some carriers appear to be moving ahead of schedule.

The new 5G networks could open up a range of services by delivering data at much faster speeds, enabling services such as remote surgery or driverless cars and allowing customers to experience video and virtual reality with ease.

“New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before,” said AT&T chief strategy officer John Donovan.

“These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality.”

AT&T said it would begin lab tests of 5G starting in the second quarter and outdoor tests in Austin, Texas, before the end of the year.

“The trials will help guide our 5G standards contributions, and set the stage for widespread commercial and mobile availability once technology standards for 5G are established,” AT&T said.

“We expect 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections.”

US rival carrier Verizon has also announced plans for 5G testing in 2016.

The International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency which works on interconnection among global carriers, said its member countries had approved a plan detailing how to harmonize standards for 5G, with the rollout expected for 2020.

Trai to Set Interconnection Charges for VoIP Calls

Trai to Set Interconnection Charges for VoIP Calls

Sector watchdog Trai will set inter-connection charges for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls once the Department of Telecom (DoT) amends the relevant clause of the Unified Licence framework.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended amending the licence provision for inter-connection at the IP level, which would facilitate Internet-based calls, alternatively known as VoIP calls.

A telecom company is required to pay inter-connection charges when its subscriber makes a call to one on another network. The charge gets added up in the final price, which the subscriber has to pay.

Currently, there are inter-connection charges for VoIP calls as the licence did not have a clause for inter-connection at IP level.

“How can we determine charges till the time licence is not amended? When this licence condition is accepted… we will determine the inter-connection charges for the IP-based network,” a senior Trai official told PTI.

He added that Trai has only recommended to amend, and not regulate, the licence provision.

“It’s Trai’s domain to determine charges. However, till the time DoT accepts the proposition, we can’t determine the charges,” the official explained.

Proposing to amend the licence, Trai has said there is no explicit clause relating to inter-connection at the IP level in the existing licence, which necessitates insertion of such a clause.

Since IP-based networks, Trai said, continue to proliferate and traditional circuit switch networks are gradually being phased out, there exists the need t facilitate inter-connection.

Once the Department of Telecom (DoT) amends the licence, it will benefit telecom operators as they can terminate Internet calls on each other’s network.

The new IP-based network as well as its co-existence with legacy network is expected to give rise to operational, inter-connection and service quality issues, which need to be addressed for successful migration to IP-based networks, Trai had said earlier in a consultation paper.

Networks of all telecom companies are inter-connected, which is vital for completion of calls or sharing of messages through mobile or landline phones.

The clause 27.3 of the Unified Licence specifically deals in inter-connection between networks of different licensees for carrying circuit-switched traffic. It also provides for inter-connection between a circuit-switched network and an IP-based one through a media gateway switch.

But there is no explicit mention of an inter-connection at the IP level between two licensees.

DoT, in its letter dated November 10, 2015 to Trai, had flagged industry concerns on removal of inter-connection restrictions at the IP level to ensure seamless connectivity and requested Trai to indicate an expected timeline for the same.

Ericsson to Manage Vodafone India’s Optical Fibre Network

Ericsson to Manage Vodafone India's Optical Fibre Network

Vodafone India announced on Thursday that it has selected Ericsson to manage its optical fibre cable network in 10 telecom circles for three years.

The new agreement covers operations and maintenance of its optical fibre network across east and west India, spanning a distance of approximately 45,000 kilometers, Vodafone said in a statement.

“We have selected Ericsson as a partner to manage our optical fiber cable network given Ericsson’s strength and experience in managing multi-vendor, multi-technology networks for operators globally and in India. This agreement will give Vodafone the benefit of Ericsson’s expertise in this area,” the statement quoted Vodafone’s chief technology officer Vishant Vora as saying.

Ericsson’s India region head Paolo Colella said that this “managed services agreement in India strengthens that partnership in a very important market and complements our collaborations in other parts of the world”.

“At Ericsson, we continue to invest in tools, methods and processes in order to help our customers increase their network efficiency while delivering world-class subscriber experiences,” he added.

Ericsson provides managed services for networks that together serve more than 1 billion subscribers worldwide. With the addition of Vodafone’s network, Ericsson will manage a total of 2,225,000 kilometers of fibre and strengthen its existing fibre operations in India.

Idea, Ericsson Partner for 4G Services in India

Idea, Ericsson Partner for 4G Services in India

Idea Cellular on Wednesday announced an agreement with Swedish communication technology multinational Ericsson to deploy 4G network across select Indian telecom circles which serve over 40 million subscribers.

The agreement includes the transformation of Idea Cellular’s existing mobile radio access and core network infrastructure across nine circles for 2G and five circles for 3G – enabling Idea Cellular to deliver superior mobile broadband experiences including faster mobile data speeds and better smartphone performance to its subscribers, the company said in a statement.

“We are committed to offering our customers the best possible mobile experience. Transforming our 2G and 3G network will enable us to offer optimised mobile data and better smartphone performance, while our LTE deployments will take the customer experience on Idea Cellular’s networks to the next level,” said Himanshu Kapania, CEO, Idea Cellular.

The contract covers equipment, software and a range of professional services, including project management, systems integration and supervisory managed services for 4G/LTE across select circles for a period of two years.

For this, Ericsson will install its multi-standard RBS 6000 radio base station, which supports GSM/EDGE, WCDMA/HSPA and LTE in a single cabinet and upgrade core network and operations support systems (OSS).

“Ericsson’s technology and services leadership will enable Idea Cellular to transform their 2G and 3G networks and to roll out an LTE network that delivers superior broadband experiences,” added Paolo Colella, head of region India, Ericsson.

For licensing purposes, the Indian telecom market is divided into 22 geographical zones, referred to as circles.

DoT Permits Sharing of Active Telecom Infrastructure

DoT Permits Sharing of Active Telecom Infrastructure

The government has allowed sharing of active telecom infrastructure like antenna, feeder cable and transmission systems, a move that will lower costs for telecom operators and lead to faster rollout of networks.

Earlier, the telecom companies were allowed to share only passive infrastructure such as towers.

The Department of Telecom has amended the Unified Licence to allow active infrastructure sharing.

“Sharing of active infrastructure amongst service providers based on the mutual agreements entered amongst them is permitted. Active infrastructure sharing will be limited to antenna, feeder cable, Node B, radio access network (RAN) and transmission system only,” DoT said in a notification.

It added the amendment is effective with immediate effect.

The government has already allowed sharing of spectrum among telecom operators, which will result in lowering costs and utilisation of excess spectrum.

“With sharing of active infrastructure, you don’t require your own antenna, feeder cable etc which will bring down the capital infrastructure,” BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava said.

Earlier this week, the DoT said it is set to come out with regulations in 3-4 months that will make it mandatory for mobile phones to support Hindi and at least one regional language.

The move is aimed at making users communicate in local languages and access government services like e-payment through mobile phones.

“Three months down the line, there will be a regulation that will make every mobile phone sold in India mandatory to have English, Hindi and one regional language,” a senior DoT official said.

The official said that to make Digital India a success, “broadband cannot be limited to English-speaking middle and upper class Indians and it needs to go down to rural areas”.

Reliance Jio Ties Up With 8 Global Carriers

Reliance Jio Ties Up With 8 Global Carriers

Reliance Jio Infocomm on Monday said it has tied up with eight global carriers that will allow partner businesses to more efficiently and quickly bring innovative products and services to customers around the world.

An official statement said the eight global carriers are British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Millicom, MTS, Orange, Rogers, TeliaSonera and TIM.

“Jio is set to enable each Indian to live a digital life. To this end, we have built the globally largest green-field 4G and fiber network, as well as a suite of digital services that enable entertainment, cloud, payment, and much more.

“We invite the best partners to work with us to co-create a Digital India,” said Rainer Deutschmann, chief product and innovation officer of Reliance Jio Infocom.

Industrialist Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm is expected to launch 4G services very soon.

The statement said through these companies, a potential customer base of around one billion in more than 80 countries can be reached.

Jio has installed 90,000 eco-friendly cell towers that have a near-zero footprint, laid 250,000 route km of fiber optic cable country-wide, and its retail reach is spread over 1.02 lakh villages, 18,000 cities across all the 29 states of the country, it said.

“Partnering becomes more and more important. We as operators can provide partners with the best networks and easy distribution to customers. And the partners enable us to provide our customers with the best and most innovative products and services. This is a perfect win-win-situation for all,” said Christian von Reventlow, chief product and innovation officer at Deutsche Telekom.

The alliance will focus on exchanging best practices on how to bring partner propositions to the market, on joint efforts in partner scouting and will also exchange knowledge about upcoming trends and services amongst the group, the statement said.

“As of today, the Alliance has established relationships with 30 innovative partner businesses including AirBnB, Celltick, Disconnect, Idoomoo, Magisto, Mojio and Spotify,” it said.

The statement said the alliance was an open network of like-minded operators worldwide with complementary geographical footprints.

It was covering all relevant product categories within an operator’s business, mobile as well as fixed, business-to-customer as well as business-to-business. It will be expanding to additional operators soon.

Vodafone and Liberty Global Merge Operations in Netherlands

Vodafone and Liberty Global Merge Operations in Netherlands

British mobile phone giant Vodafone and US cable group Liberty Global said Monday they are merging their Netherlands operations to create a company worth EUR 19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,43,281 crores).

The companies will create a 50-50 joint venture, they said in a joint statement.

Vodafone, whose Dutch operations are worth a bit less than those of Liberty Global, will make a cash payment of EUR one billion to the American firm to equalize ownership in the new company.

With more than 15 million customers it will be the second largest telecoms company in the Netherlands, after KPN.

The companies forsee synergies of EUR 280 million per year and EUR 3.5 billion altogether, when cost reductions are taken into account.

Liberty Global’s activities in the Netherlands include cable operator Ziggo, which it acquired in 2014 for EUR 10 billion.

Ziggo’s stake of the high speed Internet market in the Netherlands is 44 percent, according to ABN Amro. KPN is next with 40 percent.

Liberty Global’s Dutch operations are valued at EUR 14 billion. They posted revenue of EUR 2.5 billion last year.

Vodafone has a market value of EUR 4.7 billion in the Netherlands, and is far behind KPN and Ziggo in both television and cable. It posted revenue of EUR 1.93 billion in 2015.

The transaction is due to close late this year and needs approval from anti-trust regulators. It could speed up telecoms mergers in Europe.

Idea Launches 4G Services in Chennai

Idea Launches 4G Services in Chennai

Idea Cellular on Monday announced the expansion of its high speed 4G LTE (1800MHz FDD-LTE Band 3) services to across 29 towns of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai. The telecom operator said that within two months, it has expanded its 4G LTE service footprint to 20 districts, including towns such as Chennai, Madurai, Trichy, Salem, Tirunelveli, Vellore, Erode, and Tirupur.

The operator said it is slated to roll out its 4G LTE services to Coimbatore and Pondicherry shortly. In December, Idea Cellular had announced the launch of 4G LTE services in 5 South Indian states, namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka. Earlier this month, the company launched services across 5 other states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, and Odisha.

P Lakshminarayana, Chief Operating Officer- Corporate, Idea Cellular, spoke of the rollout in Chennai, saying, “Since the last week of December 2015, Idea has rapidly rolled out its high-speed 4G LTE network to cover 8 major markets in India. By March 2016, our services will extend to 2 more key markets namely, Maharashtra & Goa, and North East, and by June 2016, Idea’s 4G footprint will cover 750 cities across 10 telecom circles.”

Idea in an emailed statement said its subscribers can avail a complimentary 4G SIM card upgrade company showrooms and major retail outlets across 750 towns in India. It added that “existing customers in key non-4G towns will also be able to enjoy Idea’s 4G services while roaming in these 4G towns by upgrading to 4G SIM cards from February 28.”

As with other telecom operators, Idea charges the same data tariffs for 4G as its existing 3G plans. Its 4G packs begin for as low as Rs. 21. The company also detailed a special promotional offer for consumers upgrading to new 4G smartphones, “prepaid or postpaid customers buying new 4G smartphones before March 31 are being offered special double data benefit on all 1GB and above packs. The 100 percent extra 4G promotional data can only be utilised on Idea’s 4G LTE network.” The company has tied up with Samsung, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Xolo to offer bundled 4G data plans on smartphones, as well as e-commerce site Snapdeal.

Taiwan to Launch 4G Disaster Alert System

Taiwan to Launch 4G Disaster Alert System

Taiwan on Monday announced it will launch an early warning system for natural disasters on 4G mobile phones, following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake on February 6 that killed 116 people.

From April onwards, subscribers of 4G telecommunication services will receive messages from the public warning system regarding natural disasters, announced the director of the Department of Network Infrastructure of the National Communications Commission, Lo Chin-Hsien.

Taiwan has been working on this system since the devastating 9-magnitude earthquake in May 11, 2011, that was followed by a tsunami, in northeast Japan, EFE news reported.

The new system, already in its trial period, will allow 4G telecommunications companies to send instant alerts to millions of users in areas at potential risk of natural disasters so they can adopt protective measures.

The small island nation, so far, had a system through which a maximum of 2,000 messages could be sent to people in danger zones, but which is not equipped to send alerts in case of major natural disasters, said Lo.

The nationwide emergency alerts will not turn off and will be received through text messages with sound and vibration, he added.