Trai begins online OHDs, but tariff floor price issue may not be taken up for now

New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) Telecom regulator Trai on Wednesday resumed its customary open house discussion (OHD) on pending matters through video-conference but the issue of floor price of tariffs is unlikely to be taken up via online mode for now, till the ongoing situation arising from COVID-19 pandemic stabilises, a source said.

The Trai source said the regulator may soon come out with a consultation paper dealing with bill shocks in international mobile roaming, that will seek to address the issues faced by consumers in terms of loss of connectivity, and high bills.

The modalities of the consultation paper will be finalised soon, and it may be released within a month.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has, so far, lined up at least two OHDs - a standard practice followed by it to take verbal inputs from industry and public on specific issues - through video-conference for this month.

The source said in all probability an OHD will also be organised on the issue of 'transparency in publishing of tariff offers', by month end.

Besides, at least 3-4 other OHDs will take place next month through video-conference, and online will be the regular mode for such discussions till things get back to normal.

Even once things are back to normal, OHDs may assume a hybrid format, to ensure increased participation, the source added.

However, the issue of fixing floor price of tariffs may not figure immediately in OHD via video-conference, the source said adding that some of the pending matters are likely to be taken up first.

Also, given the ongoing scenario of coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties faced by people, Trai may wait for situation to stabilise before it proceeds to the OHD stage on floor price issue, the source said.

When contacted, Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI)Director General Rajan Mathews recently told PTI that the regulator is aware of the industry's sense of urgency, but that the industry will wait for Trai to take a call.

'At this point anyway, the main focus of operators is to maintain the uptime and accessibility of the networks and quality of service for customers during the COVID-19 lockdown... in that sense, we have to wait for the quarantine period to get over or things to get back to new that, as the economy recovers, there will be opportunities for operators to consider tariff increases...clearly, it is not the intention of operators to burden anyone with additional issues at this time”, Mathews said.

Stating that telcos are currently focusing on ensuring uptime, quality of service and engaging with the Government to open retail recharge facilities, Mathews said the 'issue of floor price will emerge once we get past COVID-19 situation'.

In December, Trai had released a consultation paper to fix minimum or floor rates for mobile phone calls and data. The telecom call and data rates are at present under forbearance or not regulated. However, private telecom operators had unanimously approached Trai to fix minimum price for mobile internet rates. PTI MBI ANU ANU