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TRAI seeks industry’s views on unbundling specific layers of telecom via differential licensing

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New Delhi: Sector regulator TRAI on Thursday floated a discussion paper on enabling unbundling of specific layers  of telecom like infrastructure, network, services, through differential licensing.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sought industry’s views on whether network services layer and service delivery layer need to be separated, by introducing specific licence for network element alone.

“What incentives (for example, lower licence fee, lower Spectrum Usage Charges) could be provided to network layer licensees in the new unbundled licensing regime to encourage the investment in the network layer,” TRAI has asked.

It has further sought industry feedback on what should be the scope for network layer licence and service category licences, in case the two elements are separated, by carving out a separate category of licences.

The consultation paper comes after the telecom department in May 2019 sought the regulator’s recommendation on the issue of unbundling of different layers.

TRAI had earlier come out with a pre-consultation paper on the issue, where it sought inputs from stakeholders on the broad framework for unbundling of licence.

Based on the inputs received for the pre-consultation paper and international practices and internal analysis, TRAI has now issued a consultation paper on `enabling unbundling of different layers through differential licensing’, the regulator said in a release.

It has set a deadline of September 17 for written comments and October 1 for counter comments on the issue.

TRAI has asked if a network services layer licensee should be permitted to take the service delivery category licences and provide the service, and the restrictions and safeguards that would be imposed protect the competition and innovation in service delivery segment.

“Out of various responsibilities and obligations enumerated in Unified Licence, what should be the respective responsibilities and obligations of network layer licensees and service delivery category licensees,” said the consultation paper.

Other issues up for debate include whether certain obligations should be imposed on network layer licensees to provide the network resources in a time-bound, transparent and non-discriminatory manner, as also mechanisms to regulate the access to network services by the service delivery category licensees.

“Whether the existing Unified Licensees should be mandated to migrate to the unbundled licensing regime, or the new regime should be introduced, while keeping the existing regime continued for existing licensees till the validity of their licence, with an option of migration,” TRAI asked.

Another question is on whether service delivery category licensees should be permitted to parent with multiple network service layer licensees.

The telecom department in May 2019, had informed that the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) under its ‘Propel India’ mission, envisages one of the strategies as ‘reforming the licensing and regulatory regime to catalyse investments and innovation and promote ease of doing business’.

“Enabling unbundling of different layers (example, infrastructure, network, services, and application layer) through differential licensing is one of the action plans for fulfilling the aforementioned strategy,” the TRAI release said.

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