Editorial – August 2017

In the shrill cacophony of incumbents for bailouts, the voice of consumer organizations have been drowned out. All of them have raised their voice in unison against MTC, which we present to you in our cover story. The main thread of their stand is ‘Scrap MTC’. MTC is a hidden cost. They want MTC to be terminated. They want Trai to move to Bill And Keep (BAK) regime, as has already been done in Fixed to Fixed Calls, Fixed to Mobile Call and Mobile to Fixed Calls in 2015.

Scrapping of MTC, they feel will give all the operators full freedom for tariff fixation and bring in efficiencies in network operations, which will ultimately benefit the consumers in the form of lower tariff and better services. The incumbents lobbied for, discussions for floor tariff for mobile services and this was initiated by Trai. But Trai has seen reason and possibility of any further discussion on this has been scrapped, but Trai is yet to communicate its decision on MTC.

Consumer organizations reiterate in our story that no floor price should be fixed and MTC be scrapped without any further delay.

If Trai scraps MTC, the objectives that BharatNet project seeks to fulfill can be realized, because BharatNet is becoming increasingly a showcase of a project going horribly wrong. It was meant to be a dream project; it has become a cost nightmare and a repetitive series of missed deadlines.

Originally, one lakh GPs were to be connected by March 2014 under Phase-I and the remaining 1.50 lakh GPs by March 2015 under Phase-II. But, as of May 31, 2017, only 18,915 GPs could be connected under BharatNet, and no activity has started for the phase-2 of the project. The revised target for Phase-I has now been fixed as March 2018, for Phase-II, it is March 2019. And with every slippage, cost has gone haywire. It began with a cost tag of Rs 20,000 cr, now the cabinet has approved Rs 42,068 cr but according to a DoT committee report (2015), cost may exceed Rs 1 lakh cr.

Also read our very sharp analysis of why the Idea-Voda deal is hugely violative of SEBI regulations. We list seven big violations, which show how the cos evaded mandatory open offer, engaged in crafty scheming on valuation matters to benefit themselves and how Vodafone is trying to get listed through the back door.