TRAI said its analysis shows that mostly, the impact on tariff is less than 4 paise per minute and often much lower. This can be either absorbed by the service providers from the additional minutes that are generated or recovered through charges for different retail and wholesale service
New Delhi: Despite pressure from industry, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stood by its recommendation of high base price for auction of spectrum saying the increase in the tariff can be absorbed by operators, but gave marginal relief in the price of frequencies being used for CDMA services, reports PTI.
In its response to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Spectrum auction proposals, TRAI said that its analysis shows that recommendations do not adversely impact the profitability of the wireless industry or the entry of new operators nor do they adversely affect the affordability of the consumer.
"The results indicate that mostly, the impact on tariff is less than 4 paise per minute and often much lower. This can be either absorbed by the service providers from the additional minutes that are generated or recovered through charges for different retail and wholesale service," TRAI said.
On 2nd May, the DoT had sought clarification from the TRAI on likely impact of telecom tariff if its recommendations on spectrum auction is put in place.
TRAI has recommended a base price of Rs3,622 crore per megahertz (MHz) pan-India spectrum for 1800 Mhz band (being used for GSM service), which is almost 10 times higher than the price at which 2G licences bundled with 4.4 MHz spectrum were allocated in 2008 by then Telecom Minister A Raja.
Justifying the recommended price at par with international prices, which in European countries ranges between Euro 0.4 to 0.6, TRAI said "present recommended reserve price of Rs 3622.16 per MHz for 1800 MHz band works out to only 0.25 euro per MHz per population."
The Regulator has also recommended that price of spectrum in 800 Mhz and 900 Mhz band should be double the price of 1,800 Mhz.
However, in its clarification, TRAI gave some concession to telecom operators for providing telecom services in the 800 Mhz frequency band which is currently being used for CDMA service.
The Authority would be open to the Government fixing the Reserve price of 800 MHz spectrum at 1.3 times the 1800 MHz reserve price. This is only where 5 MHz spectrum is not being made available," TRAI said.
This means a telecom operator interested in bidding for spectrum in 800 Mhz band will have to pay around Rs23,530 crore instead of around Rs36,200 crore as per earlier recommendation.
TRAI also did not differ on its stand for refarming of 900 Mhz spectrum, but reiterated need to create Spectrum Refarming fund to compensate existing users of the frequencies in these band for upgradation of their equipments.
This is one of the major concern for old GSM players, mainly Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, as cost of infrastructure increases for providing mobile services through high spectrum band compared to low frequencies.
If TRAI's refarming recommendation is approved, then old GSM telecom operators will have to use high frequencies of 1800 Mhz band for transmitting signals for mobile services compared to 900 Mhz band frequency which they use at present.
Telecom companies Vodafone and Idea Cellular have indicated that refarming will cost them Rs10,000 crore and Rs17,000 crore, respectively.
Taking high reserve price of spectrum and cost of spectrum refarming, telecom operators have said that tariff in some telecom service area can rise up to 100% over existing rates.
However, TRAI's recommendations have addressed some concerns raised by Norwegian telecom company Telenor by not forcing network roll-out obligation on companies.
"...the bidders will be bound only by the conditions stipulated in the auction tender document, mandating roll out obligations on the successful bidders, subsequently may not be legally feasible," TRAI said.
Telecom companies have pointed out that mandating roll-out obligation along with high spectrum price will make it tough for them to do business.
Roll out obligations were mandated on operators to ensure that they rolled out services in rural areas, increase connectivity across the country within a stipulated time and therefore, increase teledensity in remote areas as well.
TRAI also increased scope of more companies winning spectrum in the auction that are due before 31st August.
It has recommended that additional spectrum slot can be auctioned only if the number of registered bidders is more than four and in telecom circles where spectrum is available after reserving spectrum for refarming.
Since pilots are not ready to call off strike and join work, the national carrier cancelled 14 international flights
New Delhi: The strike by Air India pilots entered seventh day on Monday, forcing the national carrier to cancel as many as fourteen of its international flights that caused inconvenience to hundreds of passengers, reports PTI.
"As the pilots are not ready to call-off their strike and join work, we have cancelled 14 international flights from Delhi and Mumbai," an Air India official said.
The pilots, who are on strike since Tuesday, are not ready to relent from their stand until their demands are met. They have also refused to accept Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh's call to come to the dialogue table after withdrawing their strike.
The carrier had to cancel as many as 20 international flights on Sunday. Hundreds of passengers were stranded following the flight cancellations. They had alleged yesterday that they had not been given the refund by the airline against their booked tickets after the cancellation of the flights.
The crisis further worsened yesterday with airline's executive pilots coming out in support of striking pilots, asking the management to revoke the sack orders and hold immediate negotiations to end the impasse.
The striking pilots while stating that they were ready for talks showed no signs of returning to work, leaving passengers fretting with holiday schedules going haywire.
Biometrics is not the only problem, the enrolment process and authentication systems are also emerging as serious issues with the UID or Aadhaar identification project. This is also forcing banks to search for other alternatives for payment authentication
Lost cards, fake and frivolous enrolments and difficulty in reading biometrics of the really poor on whose name the expensive project was started, are just a few of the issues plaguing Aadhaar, the Unique Identification (UID) number project, the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) appears to be happy to enrol more people who already have some identification rather than those who do not have any.
This has evoked strong criticism from a top official from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Dr KC Chakrabarty, deputy governor, RBI, in a report said, “Aadhaar was to give ID to people without cards, but it is giving to those who don’t need one. Even if it signs up 500 million people in the next five to six years, and they are all people like you and me, it will not serve any purpose.”
Several poor people, who do not have any ID, are also finding it difficult to enrol for Aadhaar. Many of them, like housemaids and construction labourers, are finding it difficult to provide a clean fingerprint sample. Some could not even submit sample of their iris due to cataract. After failing to provide clean samples for registrations, these people may be deprived the Aadhaar number or enrolled in physically-disabled category. People also have been complaining about the long time taken for registering for the Aadhaar.
According to media reports, even the finance ministry is looking at an alternate system of payment validation. While, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to accept the Aadhaar number as one of the identification proofs for opening an account, the lenders are not sure about the authentication and verification of these numbers for the payment system. The RBI does not appear to be confident about Aadhaar as it feels that the UID project is not ready for handling secure payment transactions.
Last week, an initial probe by the Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) in Hyderabad revealed that its staff indulged in fake enrolments and dispatch of the UID numbers.
Mohammad Ali, a data entry supervisor of IL&FS, told the police that he was sacked in September 2011 and surrendered his login ID and password to his seniors. The company, however, gave this login ID and password to others, who in turn registered about 30,000 people in just six months from 17 enrolment centres in Hyderabad. They even dispatched the letter mentioning the UID number. However, majority of the registrations were fake and UIDAI admitted that it never received any data for these Aadhaar enrolments. Out of these 30,000 enrolments, about 800 were registered under the physically-disabled category, which may make it easy for a fake user to obtain other documents like a passport.
This is completely in contrast to the UIDAI claims. Earlier in January, UIDAI said, “… based on the analysis, it can be stated with confidence that UIDAI enrolment system has proven to be reliable, accurate and scalable to meet the nation’s need of providing unique Aadhaar numbers to the entire population. It is now safe to conclude that the system will be able to scale to handle the entire population”.
This again may be the reason, why the finance ministry and bankers are searching for other avenues for a payment authentication system. In Mewat district of Haryana, the Department of Financial Services has started its own pilot project for biometric authentication. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has created routing systems for payments in the pilot project.
Even, the request for proposals (RFPs) issued by State Bank of India (SBI) for enrolling banking correspondents (BCs) in Maharashtra says that the technology solutions can be based on authentication system other than those of UIDAI (Aadhaar, what else?). Bankers, especially, belonging to state-run banks, have expressed reservations about the legality of Aadhaar.
Last year in December, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, headed by Yashwant Sinha had rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill (NIA Bill). The finance ministry, the home ministry and the Planning Commission, further strengthening the committee's reservations to the big-ticket scheme, have also opposed the project.
The committee also raised concerns about security, data theft and privacy. “Considering the huge database size and possibility of misuse of information, enactment of a national data protection law, which is at a draft stage, is a prerequisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate database… The committee is afraid that the scheme may wind up being dependent on private agencies…,” the committee noted in its report.
According to a potential class action suit filed by Bengaluru-based Col (retd) Mathew Thomas of Citizens’ Action Forum and VK Somasekhar, founder-trustee of Grahak Shakti, every day the UID project continues, several crore of rupees of taxpayers’ money would be lost. Apart from this, the continued gathering of people’s data would be an unacceptable security risk both to the people and the nation itself.
“It is respectfully submitted that while millions are dying of hunger, starvation and deprivation be it children, women, men or aged persons, spending such huge amounts of money to benefit and make it possible for many to pocket the money at the expense of the citizen in the name of Aadhaar even without any legislative sanction is illegal. Plaintiffs are affected by the conduct of the defendants and so are many millions of Indians,” said Col (retd) Thomas and Mr Somasekhar in the petition.
Social activist and writer Arundhati Roy, in an interview to the New Internationalist magazine expressed reservation about the Aadhaar scheme. “Imagine a government that cannot provide food or water to its people, a government whose policies have created a population of 800 million people who live on less than Rs20 [about 45 US cents] a day, a country which has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, which has, as a major priority, the desire to distribute UID cards to all of its citizens.”
“The UID is a corporate scam which funnels billions of dollars into the IT sector. To me, it is one of the most serious transgressions that is on the cards. It is nothing more than an administrative tool in the hands of a police state," the activist had said.
The UIDAI is also been accused to make false claims about the reliability of biometrics used in the Aadhaar project. (Read: True lies of biometric technology in Aadhaar enrolment).