COAI alleges bias in allowing ISPs to offer voice services

COAI alleges bias in allowing ISPs to offer voice services New Delhi: Telecom operators body COAI has charged the telecom department with trying to give "undue benefits" to Reliance Industries by allowing companies having ISP licences to offer voice calls by paying a small fee of Rs 1,658 crore each.

"We are greatly concerned and distressed by the unfolding of events on the attempts on the part of DoT to give undue benefits to a set of private parties, in this case RIL... under the pretext of migration of Unified Licence," COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said in a letter to Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar.

COAI is a body of mobile telecom operators that use GSM platform to offer services.

The RIL spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comments.

Inter-ministerial body Telecom Commission has approved a recommendation that allows companies having ISP licences and holding 4G spectrum to offer phone calls services by paying a fee of Rs 1,658 crore each.

The Telecom Commission decision, if finally approved by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, will allow companies like Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJI), Augere, Tikona Digital, if they want, to offer mobile phone service using BWA spectrum that they won in 2010 auction.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said the choice of using BWA spectrum under a given licence was to be exercised by an operator at the time of participation in auctions in 2010.

"By proposing a change now, the DoT is proposing policy changes in order to selectively favour and benefit a specific operator," it added.

The industry body said BWA spectrum was offered and acquired in 2010 under ISP licence on the basis that it cannot be used for voice services.

"Any effort to retrospectively review the same to grant an enhancement in the scope of service will be illegal as the conditions of auction are legally binding," COAI said.

It added that the charge of Rs 1,650 crore was relevant only till the start of auction of BWA in 2010.

"Introduction of unified licence or payment of Rs 1,650 crore should not be allowed to be used as a via media to sidestep the explicit condition of auctions and attain a backdoor entry into voice services," COAI said.

PTI