Convergence Plus
Policy & Regulation
Friday, May 24, 2019
DoT asks Karnataka to align infra roll out policy with RoW policy

The DoT in a letter dated May 1 to the state government said that the proposed regulation in Karnataka for telecom infrastructure roll out is not aligned with the Right of Way policy notification of November 2016.

The Karnataka government has been asked by the telecom department to align its infrastructure roll out policy with the Centre's following incidents of cable cutting by the local municipal body in Bengaluru. The DoT in a letter dated May 1 to the state government said that the proposed regulation in Karnataka for telecom infrastructure roll out is not aligned with the Right of Way policy notification of November 2016.

Referring to a communication last month, the DoT Advisor for Karnataka telecom circle said, "it has been requested to pursue with state government for implementing the state RoW policy aligned with the central (Indian Telegraph) Right of Way policy."

Recently, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had ordered to cut down telecom cables laid over the ground, citing them to be non-compliant with existing norms, and has demanded fees from companies to lay them underground.

However, telecom service providers said the cables were laid overhead temporarily due to road construction work and they had already paid the fees for laying them under the ground.

Telecom cables connect mobile towers with each other and also provide bandwidth for broadband connections.

Industry group Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) had alleged that cable were cut in areas like Sarjapur Road, Whitefield, Marathahalli, Bellandur and Sarjapur without any prior intimation to the telecom industry.

The letter from advisor said that the action from the BBMP had adversely impacted the network connectivity and also seriously affected digital transactions and other emergency services.

The DoT has requested the state government to conduct workshop to create awareness about radiation, finalise the state RoW policy aligned with central (Indian Telegraph) Right of Way policy.

According to a DoT letter issued to telecom circle head in states , only 13 states have aligned their RoW policy with that of the central government including Haryana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Assam, Tamil Nadu Uttar Pradesh. (Source:ETTelecom)

Arbitrary ban on social media platforms will impede FDI: IAMAI

The Madras High Court on April 3, 2019, had directed the Centre to ban TikTok, saying it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile applications.

Any "arbitrary" ban on social media platforms and intermediaries could impede foreign direct investment and affect expansion of the digital India initiative, an industry body of Internet and mobile device companies said Saturday. Without naming Chinese video sharing app TikTok, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said its statement was in response to the "recent ban by the MeiTY on the order of a High Court of a social media platform".

The Madras High Court on April 3, 2019, had directed the Centre to ban TikTok, saying it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile applications. Soon after, tech giants Google and Apple removed TikTok from their app stores in India to prohibit further downloads of the application.

Owned by Chinese firm Bytedance, TikTok is a short-video app that has over 120 million users in India and is popular among youngsters.

The IAMAI said it would be a major roadblock to the growth of digital India and impede FDI in digital if intermediaries were to be banned quite arbitrarily by the courts in the country.

"The association was of the view that such bans dilutes nay negate the safe harbour provisions currently contained in the IT Act and its Rules and make it impossible for them to operate in the country. Especially affected would be the so-called social media platforms which allow citizens to express themselves," it added.

The IAMAI said content moderation on user-generated content platforms has been a problem about which the platforms themselves are keenly aware and have taken effective measures in recent months to curb the excesses.

It also pointed out that social media platforms in the country have adopted the Code of Ethics with the Election Commission.

"The association is of the view that in this particular instance, the complainant should have approached the government for redressal first before approaching the courts and the court should have ideally asked the platform to remove the 'offending content' than ban the entire app. It is a classic case of throwing the baby with the bathwater," the IAMAI said.

According to the IAMAI, dilution of the Safe Harbour protection available to intermediaries/social media platforms undermines the steady growth of India's digital economy and especially impacts the thriving startup ecosystem in the country.

"Content moderation on user-generated platforms is an industry-wide challenge that our members take very seriously, and are constantly addressing with ever-improving mechanisms along with enhanced safety features such as increased privacy settings, in-app reporting, comments filter, content filter for younger users, in-app access to Community Guidelines, online safety resources and more," it said. (Source:ETTelecom)

Telecom dept likely to strike down Railways' free spectrum demand

Trai had earlier recommended the auction route for the allocation of 700 MHz spectrum to the Railways. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to strike down the Indian Railways’ demand for airwaves worth Rs 65,000 crore in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band. The DoT is against giving a premium spectrum to Railways for free as it would lose out on the revenue from the auction of those airwaves, said sources familiar with the development.

The Railways had asked for 10 MHz of spectrum in 700 MHz band for setting up public safety and security services. After the Railways sent the proposal to the DoT, it was taken to the Digital Communications Commission, which in turned directed the DoT to seek the views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

Trai had earlier recommended the auction route for the allocation of 700 MHz spectrum to the Railways.

“The frequency band is earmarked for mobile services and allocating it to the Railways for non-commercial use may adversely impact levies like adjusted gross revenue, spectrum usage charges and licence fee,” a DoT official said.

This was conveyed to the regulator. The DoT is now awaiting Trai response. The airwaves in the 700 MHz band are considered premium for long-distance mobile communications as they require less number of mobile towers to provide services, compared to 3G and 4G services.

Trai recommended a base price of Rs 6,568 crore per megahertz of airwaves in 700 MHz band, implying the total value of airwaves at Rs 65,680 crore at the reserve price. The same 700 MHz band spectrum remained unsold in the 2016 auctions when Trai had fixed a base price of Rs 11,485 crore per MHz. (Source: Economic Times)

BIF asks TRAI to do fresh valuation drill for spectrum pricing

Broadband India Forum, an association of the telecom network and broadcasters has questioned the TRAI methodology of calculating reserve price for spectrum, alleging this has resulted in spectrum prices being unreasonably higher than global price lines.

Broadband India Forum, an association of the telecom network and broadcasters has questioned the TRAI methodology of calculating reserve price for spectrum, alleging this has resulted in spectrum prices being unreasonably higher than global price lines.

The assocation in a letter to the TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma has said "TRAI Methodology of calculating Reserve Price does not rely much on fresh valuation".

BIF's contention is that the reserve prices can be referenced back to last auction only if it is not more than one year old. In case spectrum is auctioned after a gap of more than a year of last auctions (in this case the last auction happened in 2016), spectrum must be valued afresh to take into account the current market structure and condition.

TV Ramachandran, president, IBF said in the letter , in the latest spectrum pricing recommendations of TRAI, though fresh valuation has been computed for each circle, it is not applied to all circles. For instance in 1800 MHz, for 19 out of 22 circles, fresh valuation is not used. These circles have been computed using indexation and valuation methods have been simply ignored.

On 5G radio waves, which will be auctioned for the first time if auction takes place this year, the IBF president said the present 5G Reserve Price (3.5 GHz band) recommended by TRAI is out of line with international norms. The average price of 5G band auctioned in 4 countries -South Korea, Spain, UK and Italy comes out to be Rs 84 Cr/MHz. The TRAI recommended price for the same band is Rs 492 Cr/MHz (5 to 6 times higher).

Airtel promoter Sunil Mittal had also hit out at the regulator for 5G spectrum price terming it higher saying Airtel would not buy 5G spectrum at the current prices.

But TRAI chairman has stuck to his ground and had said the pricing of 5G and other bands were done in consultation with the stakeholders and government has not found any issues with the TRAI pricing.

TRAI reserve price for 3.5 GHz band is so high because it has used the indexed price of the 1800 MHz band (of the 2016 auction) to arrive at the price of 3.5 GHz band. As the last auction price was available, and therefore the ground up valuation (output of the pricing models) was rejected by TRAI, even though these numbers were significantly lower than the last auction price, he stated adding there should be a fresh valuation calculation.

"There is a need to carry out fresh valuation exercise and not index it to value of 1800 MHz as recommended by TRAI. The best approach is to do ground up valuation using a number of methods (pricing models) and take the discounted average to arrive at the reserve price.", he said.

To drive home its point, it cited the case of 700 MHz spectrum which remained unsold with a whopping price Rs 11,484 crore per Mhz in 2016 auction, and now its price has been cut by 42 per cent for the upcoming auction, BIF said TRAI inadvertently erred in fixing Reserve Price of 700 MHz Spectrum in 2016.

The error was on account of two factors - calculation error and outlier effect. This resulted in reserve price set for 700 MHz band at 4x of 1800 MHz reserve price leading to entire 700 MHz spectrum remaining unsold which constituted approx. 60% of the overall quantum of offered spectrum for the auction. The Indian 700 MHz reserve price was effectively 46 times more than the US auction price of 600 MHz, he said. Though the error has been corrected , the current price of 700 Mhz is still higher by global standards. (Source: ETTelecom)

Facebook CEO calls for updated Internet regulations

Huawei CFO sues Canada for wrongful detention Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg called on Saturday for regulators to play a “more active role” in establishing rules that govern the Internet, as the world's largest social media network struggles to defuse criticism. Zuckerberg, whose company is under pressure for failing to adequately police content and protect user privacy on its platform, wrote in a Washington Post article that a “standardized approach” for removing content would help keep Internet companies “accountable.”

“By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what's best about it - the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things - while also protecting society from broader harms,” Zuckerberg wrote.

His comments followed a Washington Post report saying the US government and Facebook were negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine settlement over the company's privacy lapses.

Zuckerberg also called for updated legislation focused on protecting elections, including new rules aimed at online political advertising that “reflect the reality of the threats” faced by social media companies.

US intelligence and law enforcement agencies say Russian Internet trolls helped spread divisive content and disinformation on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Expect government to seek our inputs on NDCP implementation: TRAI

Huawei CFO sues Canada for wrongful detention R.S. Sharma said that TRAI was finalising the recommendations on the crucial over-the-top (OTT) players and would notify the regulations soon. The Telecom regulator expects the government to seek its inputs for speedy and effective implementation of the National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP), TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma has said.

In an interview to IANS, he also said that TRAI was finalising the recommendations on the crucial over-the-top (OTT) players and would notify the regulations soon.

The regulator is also in consultation with the industry on discontinuing printed paper bills.

"We have ongoing consultations on OTTs and paper bills. A part of the effort in this fiscal will be in the NDCP. We expect that the government will request us for inputs on the effective implementation of the policy," Sharma told IANS.

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In November, the Trai initiated consultations to explore the regulatory framework for OTT apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Google Duo that provide calling and messaging services similar to that by mobile operators.

A telecom operator said government should take guidance from TRAI on NDCP implementation as the DoT record on execution is very poor as in case of pan India digital connectivity network -- BharatNet, ensuring Row (right of way) for mobile towers and several government projects in North East, and broader areas running much behind schedule. But so far DoT has not decided on referring the NDCP execution to TRAI, a DoT official said.

The department had sought TRAI inputs while making the policy.

OTT has been a debatable issue for the telecom industry. The industry alleges that telecom service providers lose around 15 per cent of their revenue to OTTs. The services categorized under Application eco-systems and Video/audio content are different in nature from the traditional services being provided by the TSPs and hence are not same or similar to the services of TSPs.

According to industry body COAI, telecom is now on an unequal footing with unregulated OTTs who are offering similar voice, video and data services without incurring any Regulatory cost, in the form of License fee or Spectrum charge, leading to question the sustainability of the TSPs. Telecom Minister had said earlier that speedy implementation of NDCP will bridge digital divide between rural Bharat and urban India.

"The consultation on OTT is almost final, so we will be giving recommendations very soon. OTT is a tech related issue... The current definition of OTT which we are saying and are consulting relates to similar services being offered by platforms which are being offered by telecom service providers. That's a very limited part for which the consultation is happening", the chairman said.

The NDCP policy, approved by the government last year, aims to create four million jobs and draw a whopping $100 billion worth investments into the telecom sector by 2022, apart from boosting the sector's contribution to GDP to 8 per cent from current 6 per cent. Experts feel that NDCP 2018 implementation and execution will be the most critical attributes. (Source: ETTelecom)

Thousands of Russians protest against internet restrictions

Bagged 75 contracts in India last year, most non-telecom: Nokia RUSSIA-INTERNET-Thousands of Russians protest against internet restrictions. MOSCOW: Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow and two other cities on Sunday to rally against tighter internet restrictions, in some of the biggest protests in the Russian capital in years.

Lawmakers last month backed tighter internet controls contained in legislation they say is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia's affairs. But some Russian media likened it to an online "iron curtain" and critics say it can be used to stifle dissent.

People gathered in a cordoned off ProspektSakharova street in Moscow, made speeches on a stage and chanted slogans such as "hands off the internet" and "no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet".

The rally gathered around 15,300 people, according to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies. Moscow police put the numbers at 6,500.

"If we do nothing it will get worse. The authorities will keep following their own way and the point of no return will be passed", said 28-year-old protester Dmitry, who declined to give his full name.

Opposition activists said on Twitter that police had detained 15 people at the Moscow rally, confiscating their banners and balloons. Police have not announced any detentions.

The protests in Moscow, the southern city of Voronezh and Khabarovsk in the far east had all been officially authorised. A handful of activists in St. Petersburg took to the streets without the authorities' consent.

Russia has in recent years attempted to curb internet freedoms by blocking access to certain websites and messaging services such as Telegram.

February's bill passed in the Russian parliament on the first reading out of three.

It seeks to route Russian web traffic and data through points controlled by the state and proposes building a national Domain Name System to allow the internet to continue functioning even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

The second reading is planned in March after which, if passed, the bill will need to be signed by the upper house of the parliament and then by President Vladimir Putin.

The legislation is part of a drive by officials to increase Russian "sovereignty" over its Internet segment.

Russia has introduced tougher internet laws in recent years, requiring search engines to delete some search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store Russian users' personal data on servers within the country. (Source: ETTelecom)

TRAI to decide on rules for internet calling, messaging firms soon

TRAI to decide on rules for internet calling, messaging firms soon RS Sharma, the chairman of TRAI, said that the telecom regulator will release its recommendations on the regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services in a couple of months. Telecom regulator TRAI will release its recommendations on the regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) services in a couple of months, its chairman RS Sharma said Tuesday.

“We already have a paper on OTT (over-the-top). We will come out with appropriate recommendations and regulations in near future, a couple of months from now,” Sharma told PTI at the Mobile World Congress 2019 here.

The telecom sector at MWC has been displaying technology and sharing their plans around 5G services. The business of 5G will be dominated by data-related business which is expected to blur differences between services provided by Internet companies and telecom service providers.

The sector has been talking about the same set of rules for companies providing similar services.

Last week, global industry body GSM Association Director General Mats Granryd said globally telecom companies should be regulated at par with Internet firms as they are planning to move beyond providing just connectivity to adopt a data-centric business model with “intelligent connectivity” with 5G coming in.

He said India is the only country that has announced to gradually end mobile call termination rates — a move that will end price arbitrage between online players providing calling and messaging service and telecom operators.

Talking about the evolution of new technologies and impact on regulatory jurisdictions, Sharma said, “Regulatory systems will continue to develop as technology develops. Our approach is regulator should not become a hindrance.”

Besides this, Sharma said all telecom operators will have to put in place blockchain based system to curb pesky call and messaging menace from March 1 and no extension will be granted to them.

Indian enterprise messaging firm Tanla Solutions announced here that it has installed the first system to stop pesky calls and messaging system as per Trai rule on Vodafone Idea network that has gone live from Tuesday onwards.

“This initiative would perhaps be the largest use case for Blockchain in the world with potential transactional volumes of above 10 billion per month. We are confident that it will empower the billion plus mobile users,” Uday Reddy, CMD, Tanla Solutions said.(Source:The Indian Express)


No yet apprised of government's decision on telecom ombudsman: TRAI to DoT

No yet apprised of government's decision on telecom ombudsman: TRAI to DoTTRAI has asked DoT to apprise it of the decision taken by the government on the said recommendations.

Regulator TRAI has written to the telecom department that it has not yet been apprised of the government's decision on the proposed grievance redressal mechanism or ombudsman for the telecom sector despite a reminder, and that the position on the same should be conveyed to it. In the letter addressed to Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) noted that officials of the Department of Telecom(DoT) informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee in a recent meeting that the government has approved a three-tier structure for resolution of consumer grievances in the telecom sector through setting up of an ombudsman.

"However, TRAI has not received any communication from the Government in this regard," the letter said.

TRAI has asked DoT to apprise it of the decision taken by the government on the said recommendations.

"It is pertinent to mention that as per TRAI Act, the Government needs to refer the matter back to the authority in case the Government has taken any view other than the recommendations made by TRAI," the regulator said. (Source:ETTelcom)

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