Telecom Commission decided to send back reference to TRAI as some clarification is required on some of the recommendations while few of them cannot be implemented in the present form
The Inter-ministerial panel on Telecom has decided to send back Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)'s recommendations on spectrum valuation and pricing for a review, saying that some of them can't be implemented in the present form.
"Telecom Commission decided to send back reference to TRAI as some clarification is required on some of the recommendations. Some recommendations also cannot be implemented and hence TC wants TRAI to reconsider them," an official from the Department of Telecom (DoT) said.
Last month, TRAI had given its recommendations on valuation and pricing of 1800 Mhz and 900 Mhz spectrum bands, being used for 2G services, for the next round of auction.
The regulator had suggested about 10% higher price for spectrum in 1800 Mhz over the final bid price that was received in the February auction.
The Commission has also has send back recommendation given for 800 Mhz (CDMA) spectrum band by TRAI in February for reconsidering some points. The regulator had suggested CDMA spectrum reserve price of Rs2,685 crore per megahertz for auction, which is around 50% higher than the previous pan-India base price.
The regulator has also recommended selling radiowaves in the 2100 Mhz band along with the proposed auction. Part of spectrum in 2100 Mhz band is held by Defence and DoT is in discussions to get some frequencies vacated for 3G mobile services in this band.
"Discussion is on with Defence. TC has decided to focus on spectrum for auction that is coming up for renewal," the official said.
Most of the spectrum which is proposed to be put up for sale is being used by Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications across various parts of the country.
These companies will need to buy back radiowaves to continue their operations in areas where their licences are expiring in 2015-16.
The next round of spectrum auction is proposed to be held in February 2015 from which government is estimated to garner at least Rs9,355 crore.
TRAI has also recommended taking back 900 Mhz spectrum from state-run BSNL and most of CDMA spectrum from MTNL and BSNL. The suggestion has been turned down by DoT's internal committee saying DoT has no jurisdiction to take back spectrum from these companies under the licence conditions.
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FTC lawsuit alleges that AT&T data throttled more than 3.5 million customers since October 2011 and if customers cancelled their plans after being throttled, they were charged hundreds in early terminations fees
Three weeks after the wireless carrier entered into a $105 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general over cramming allegations, AT&T faces a new round of accusations from the FTC over a so-called “throttling program” that the agency says deliberately reduced the data speeds of millions of smartphone customers with unlimited data plans.
“Data throttling” hinders a smartphone user’s ability to search the web, use GPS navigation and watch streaming video, among other applications. The FTC lawsuit filed last Tuesday alleges that AT&T data throttled more than 3.5 million customers since October 2011 and if customers cancelled their plans after being throttled they were charged hundreds in early terminations fees.
Typically, an affected user’s data speed was reduced by 80 to 90 percent until the next billing cycle began, the suit alleges.
“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited data,’ and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The issue here is simple: ‘Unlimited’ means unlimited.”
While AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers in June 2010 — when the company transitioned to “tiered” plans that carry a specific data amount — smartphone customers with existing unlimited data plans have been given the option to keep their plans. The FTC alleges that AT&T encouraged customers to renew these plans but failed to adequately disclose the potential data speed restrictions tied to the throttling program.
AT&T says it’s been transparent from the start
AT&T called the allegations “baseless” and said the program in question only affected about 3 percent of its customers who were notified by text message before their data speed was slowed.
“It’s baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts,” said Wayne Watts, AT&T general counsel and senior executive vice president.
“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” Watts said. “We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented.”
But the lawsuit alleges that AT&T limited information it gave about the throttling program to its unlimited data plan customers. It alleges that the only notice AT&T sent to customers prior to renewal was a statement titled “Important Update for Unlimited Data Plan Customers” included in a customer’s July or August 2011 monthly bill. The statement said:
To provide the best possible network experience, starting 10/01/11, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans whose usage is in the top 5% of users can still use unlimited data but may see reduced data speeds for the rest of their monthly billing cycle. We’ll alert you if you near the top 5%. To avoid slowed data speeds you may use Wi-Fi or choose a tiered data plan. Details @ att.com/dataplans.
The lawsuit alleges that this statement misled customers in part by failing “to adequately disclose that the speed reduction was due to a limit intentionally imposed by [AT&T], as opposed to general network congestion.” Also, the FTC says the throttling program impacted more than just “a handful of mega-users.”
Internal focus groups advised against throttling
Nearly 200,000 customers called AT&T about its throttling program, according to the lawsuit. What may be more troubling, though, is the allegation that the company’s own internal focus groups had indicated that the program — where unlimited data plans are in effect limited — would confuse consumers. Researchers for AT&T found that consumers felt “unlimited should mean unlimited” and that throttling was “clearly unfair,” the suit alleged.
For more on AT&T’s phone plans click here.
A costly divorce
Caught in a relationship in which they felt cheated, AT&T smartphone customers whose unlimited data plans were compromised sought a way out. The divorce proved costly.
Victims in a so-called “throttling program” — wherein AT&T deliberately slowed the data speeds of its unlimited data-plan customers — had to pay hundreds of dollars in early termination fees to cancel their contracts if they wanted to leave AT&T after finding out about the speed restrictions.
That’s according to an FTC lawsuit filed against the wireless carrier last week. It states:
Defendant (AT&T) requires most customers with an unlimited mobile data plan, when purchasing a new smartphone, to enter into a contract with a long-term service commitment (typically lasting two years) in which customers who cancel service before the end of the service commitment must pay an early termination fee (“ETF”), typically in the hundreds of dollars.
That policy is boiled down in the screenshot marked in red above. As you can see, the early termination fees are steep indeed.
The FTC lawsuit alleges that AT&T failed to adequately disclose the potential data speed restrictions tied to the throttling program, which the agency said hindered the ability of more than 3.5 million smartphone users to search the web, use GPS navigation and watch streaming video, among other applications. AT&T has called the allegations “baseless.”
Regardless of where the lawsuit goes, consumers should take this a reminder to know what they’re getting into before signing on the dotted line of any smartphone plan.