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BSNL’s disconnection threat over carriage fees may lead to tit-for-tat from private operators

BSNL’s threat to block calls from private operator networks from reaching its subscribers for their alleged failure to pay dues may lead to a tit-for-tat response from the private operators as well.

Reacting to the threat by BSNL to block calls from several leading cellular operators to its network, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) warned any such move will cause “avoidable inconvenience” to consumers of all parties.

Though mobile firms usually pay only 20-35 paise per minute as ‘termination’ charge and another 15 paise as carriage fees for connecting their calls to BSNL’s subscribers, the latter has been demanding higher charges for ‘carrying’ the calls, based on a distance-based slab system.

Such carriage charges, COAI argued, are not provided for in India’s termination and carriage charge regime.

“BSNL’s now seeking a higher termination charge of 40-85 paisa per minute from the private mobile operators for termination of mobile calls (of private operators only) to their fixed line network (as distance based carriage), is contrary to TRAI’s regulation,” said a COAI statement.

It is not clear whether or not the original demands sent by BSNL to private operators, which may run up to hundreds of crores of rupees nationally, are comprised of termination charges alone or also include carriage fees.

“The projected outstanding demands by BSNL are not in accordance with TRAI regulations and we believe there are no outstanding dues to BSNL in this regard,” COAI added.

Separately, the Telecom Regulator TRAI has suggested doing away with the termination charge altogether, keeping in mind the inconvenience and costs involved in keeping track of ‘who called whom’, arguing that ultimately the payments usually cancel each other out.

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