India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has put out an additional consultation paper realting to ways to promote broadband infrastructure in the country. This one deals with the specifics of ways to promote fixed line broadband and the license fee on the revenues earned on fixed line broadband.
According to TRAi, even as it was finalizing its recommendations on Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed, after consultations with stakeholders, the Telecoms Ministry asked it to give some specific suggestions on promotion of broadband via fixed line and whether the licence fee should be waived for five years.
In essence: whether proliferation of fixed-line broadband services be better promoted by providing direct benefit to consumers for usage of such services and whether there was a likelihood of misuse by the licensees through misappropriation of revenues if the license fee was waived.
In view of the above, Department of Telecoms (DoT) has referred the issue of exemption of license fee on the revenues earned from fixed- line broadband to TRAI for its reconsideration.
As on December 31, 2020, out of total 747.41 million broadband subscribers, there were only 22.29 million fixed-line broadband subscribers. The fixed- line broadband subscribers are a small fraction of the total subscribers. In terms of penetration, only 8.93 per 100 households have subscribed to fixed-line broadband services. Based on 2011 Census, India has 249.5 million households.
Some of the queries on which TRAi is seeking stakeholders’ views include the following:
- What should be the approach for incentivizing the proliferation of fixed-line broadband networks? Should it be indirect incentives in the form of exemption of license fee on revenues earned from fixed-line broadband services, or direct incentives based on an indisputable metric?
- If indirect incentives in the form of exemption of license fee on revenues earned from fixed-line broadband services are to be considered, then should this license fee exemption be limited to broadband revenue alone or it should it be on complete revenue earned from services delivered through fixed-line networks?
- In case of converged wireless and fixed-line products or converged services delivered using the fixed-line networks, how to unambiguously arrive at the revenue on which license fee exemption could be claimed by the licensees?
- What should be the time period for license fee exemption? Whether this exemption may be gradually reduced or tapered off with each passing year?
- Is there a likelihood of misuse by the licensees through misappropriation of revenues due to the proposed exemption of the License Fee on the revenues earned from fixed-line broadband services?
- What measures are required to be put in place to ensure that revenue earned from the other services is not mixed up with revenues earned from fixed-line broadband services in order to claim higher amount of incentive/exemption?
- Is there any indisputable metric possible to provide direct incentive for proliferation of fixed-line broadband networks?
- Which type of channels of communication should be standardized to establish uniform, transparent, and customer friendly mechanisms for publicizing provisioning of service and registration of demand by licensees?
- Whether proliferation of fixed-line broadband services can be better promoted by providing direct benefit transfer (DBT) to subscribers of fixed-line broadband services?
- Should DBT scheme be made applicable to all or a particular segment of fixed-line broadband subscribers?
- What should be the maximum duration of subsidy for each eligible fixed-line broadband connection?