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Jio Topples BSNL, Becomes Largest Fixed-Line Service Provider in August With 73.52 Lakh Subscribers: Details

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 19 October 2022

Private telecom operator Reliance Jio toppled state-run BSNL in August to become the largest fixed-line service provider in the country, according to a TRAI report released on Tuesday. This is the first time since the beginning of telecom services in the country that a private operator has gained the numero uno position in the wireline segment.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India TRAI’s subscriber report for August, Jio’s wireline subscriber base reached 73.52 lakh while that of BSNL was at 71.32 lakh.

BSNL has been providing wireline services since the last 22 years, whereas Jio launched its wireline offering 3 years ago.

The wireline subscribers in the country grew to 2.59 crore in August from 2.56 crore in July.

The growth was dominated by the private sector, with Jio adding 2.62 lakh new customers, Bharti Airtel 1.19 lakh, Vodafone Idea (Vi) 4,202 and Tata Teleservices 3,769.

State-run telecom firms BSNL and MTNL lost 15,734 and 13,395 wireline customers, respectively, in August.

The overall telecom subscriber base in the country grew marginally to 117.5 crore in August, with Jio adding most of the new customers and rural areas growing at a higher rate than urban centres, according to the TRAI report.

“The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1,173.66 million at the end of July-22 to 1,175.08 million at the end of August-22, thereby showing a monthly growth rate of 0.12 per cent,” TRAI’s subscriber report for August 2022 said.

The monthly growth rates of urban and rural telephone subscriptions were 0.10 and 0.14 per cent, respectively.

Only Reliance Jio (32.81 lakh) and Bharti Airtel (3.26 lakh) added new mobile customers while debt-ridden private firm Vi was the biggest loser in August.

Vi lost 19.58 lakh mobile customers, BSNL 5.67 lakh, MTNL lost 470 and Reliance Communications 32 customers, according to the report.

Broadband subscribers in the country grew 0.81 percent to 81.39 crore in August from 80.74 crore in July.

Top five service providers constituted 98.39 percent market share of the total broadband subscribers in August. Reliance Jio had 42.58 crore broadband subscribers, Bharti Airtel 22.39 crore, Vi 12.31 crore, BSNL 2.58 crore and Atria Convergence had 21.3 lakh broadband subscribers in August, according to the report.

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Airtel, Meta to Jointly Invest in Global Connectivity Infrastructure in India to Cater to Rising Demand

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Airtel will partner with Meta and STC (Saudi Telecom Company) to extend 2Africa Pearls, the world's longest subsea cable system, to India.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 6 December 2022

Social media giant Meta Platforms and Bharti Airtel on Monday announced a collaboration to jointly invest in telecom infrastructure to cater to the rising demand of high speed data and digital services in India.

The announcement comes on the back of telecom operators’ demand to share revenue with service providers to build networks.

“Airtel and Meta will jointly invest in global connectivity infrastructure and CPaaS (communications platform as a service) based new-age digital solutions to support the emerging requirements of customers and enterprises in India,” the statement said.

Social media giant Meta Platforms and Bharti Airtel on Monday announced a collaboration to jointly invest in telecom infrastructure to cater to the rising demand of high speed data and digital services in India.

The announcement comes on the back of telecom operators’ demand to share revenue with service providers to build networks.

“Airtel and Meta will jointly invest in global connectivity infrastructure and CPaaS (communications platform as a service) based new-age digital solutions to support the emerging requirements of customers and enterprises in India,” the statement said.

As part of the collaboration, Airtel will partner with Meta and STC (Saudi Telecom Company), to extend the world’s longest subsea cable system, 2Africa Pearls, to India.

The plan to extend 2Africa Pearls to India was announced by Meta in September 2021.

Under the collaboration, Airtel and Meta will extend the cable to Airtel’s landing station in Mumbai and also pick up dedicated capacity to further strengthen its submarine network portfolio.

“The 2Africa cable will significantly boost India’s cable capacity and empower global hyper-scalers and businesses to build new integrated solutions and provide a high-quality seamless experience to customers,” the statement said.

Airtel will also integrate Meta’s WhatsApp within its CPaaS platform. With this integration, businesses will now be able to use WhatsApp and reach to provide omnichannel customer engagement to enterprises.

“We, at Airtel, are delighted to deepen our partnership with Meta to serve India’s digitally connected economy by leveraging the technology and infrastructure strengths of both companies. With our contributions to the 2Africa cable and Open RAN, we are investing in crucial and progressive connectivity infrastructure which is needed to support the increasing demand for high-speed data in India,” Bharti Airtel, CEO for Global Business, Vani Venkatesh said.

Airtel and Meta are members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Open RAN project group. Airtel has signed an agreement to help increase the operational efficiency of Open RAN (radio access network) and facilitate energy management and automation in radio networks using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning models.

Airtel is currently conducting trials for 4G and 5G Open RAN solutions on select sites in the state of Haryana and will commercially deploy the solution across several locations in India over the next few quarters, the statement said.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Airtel to further advance the region’s connectivity infrastructure that will enable a better network experience for people and businesses across India,” Meta, vice president of mobile partnerships, Francisco Varela said.

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TRAI Working on Technology to Detect Pesky Calls, Messages; Joint Action Plan on Financial Fraud

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 29 November 2022

Telecom regulator TRAI on Monday said that it is working on various technologies to detect pesky calls and messages along with a joint action plan with other regulators to curb financial frauds.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) or pesky communication is a major source of inconvenience to the public and impinges on the privacy of individuals.

“Now complaints are reported against Unregistered Telemarketers (UTMs), where a surge has been seen in pushing various kinds of UCC SMSes. Additionally, UCC calls are also one of the concerns which need to be dealt with equally along with UCC SMSes,” it said.

TRAI in coordination with various stakeholders is taking necessary steps to check UCC from UTMs also. These steps include implementation of UCC detect system, provision of Digital Consent Acquisition, intelligent scrubbing of the Headers and Message templates, using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Language), etc,” the statement said.

To curb the menace of pesky calls and messages, TRAI issued the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2018 that created an ecosystem based on blockchain (Distributed Ledger Technology-DLT).

The regulation mandates registration of all commercial promoters and telemarketers to register on DLT platform and seek customer consent for receiving various kinds of promotional messages at time and day of their choice.

Under the framework, about 2.5 lakh principal entities have been registered with more than 6 lakh headers and approximately 55 lakh approved message templates which are being pushed to consumers through registered telemarketers and TSPs using DLT platforms.

The regulator said that the framework has resulted in substantial reduction of customer complaints to the extent of 60 per cent for the registered telemarketers. However, non-registered pesky callers continue to spam mobile subscribers.

TRAI said that it has further taken an initiative to form a Joint Committee of Regulators (JCOR) comprising Reserve Bank of India, Securities & Exchanges Board of India (Sebi) and Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MoCA) to frame a joint action plan to curb financial frauds using telecom resources. “In the recent meeting of JCOR held on November 10, 2022, which was attended by the representatives of Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also, measures to curb the UCC further were deliberated in detail,” TRAI said.

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Airtel 5G Services Launched in Patna; City to Get Coverage in Phased Manner, Telco Says

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 28 November 2022

Bharti Airtel on Monday announced the launch of its high-speed 5G services in Patna. Currently, 5G services are operational at Patna Sahib Gurudwara, Patna Railway Station, Dak Bunglow, Maurya Lok, Bailey Road, Boring Road, City Centre Mall, Patliputra Industrial Area and a few other select locations. Customers flying in and out of Patna can enjoy high-speed Airtel 5G Plus across the airport terminal.

Airtel will augment its network making its services available across the city in due course of time, and the services will be available to customers in a phased manner as the company continues to construct its network and complete the rollout.

The new terminal in Bengaluru, Pune, Varanasi, and Nagpur are the other airports that have Airtel 5G Plus.

“I am thrilled to announce the launch of Airtel 5G Plus in Patna. Airtel customers can now experience ultrafast networks and enjoy speeds up to 20-30 times faster than the current 4G speeds. We are in the process of lighting up the entire city which will allow customers to enjoy superfast access to High-definition video streaming, gaming, multiple chatting, instant uploading of photos and more,” said Anupam Arora, CEO – of Bharti Airtel, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.

In the last one year, Airtel has demonstrated the power of 5G with a host of powerful use cases that will change the way we lead our lives and do business.

What is 5G, and how is it different from the current 3G and 4G services?

5G is the fifth-generation mobile network capable of transmitting a large set of data at a very rapid speed.

In comparison to 3G and 4G, 5G has a very low latency which will enhance user experiences in various sectors.

Low latency describes the efficiency to process a very high volume of data messages with a minimal delay.

The 5G rollout is also expected to bring more development in remote data monitoring in sectors such as mining, warehousing, telemedicine, and manufacturing, among others.

Who were the participants in the 5G spectrum auction?

Reliance Jio, Adani group, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are the four major participants in the spectrum auction.

How much revenue did the government make from the auction?

Department of Telecom received total bids worth Rs. 1.50 lakh crore from the recently concluded auction. Revenue from the auctions was initially estimated to be Rs. 80,000-90,000 crore.

Speed:

5G services are expected to be about 10 times faster than 4G.

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COAI Seeks Reduction in Licence Fee to 1 Percent, Waiver in Customs Duty for 5G Network Equipment

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 23 November 2022

Mobile operators’ association COAI has urged the government for a cut in licence fee to 1 per cent, and sought waiver of customs duty on network equipment for 5G rollout.

In its Budget wishlist submitted to the finance ministry, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) has also pushed for abolition of the Universal Service Obligation Fund or USOF.

The apex telecom association has urged the government for rationalisation of GST, reduction of licence fee to 1 percent from 3 percent and waiver of customs duty on 5G network equipment.

During the pre-Budget discussions held on Monday, COAI also sought the removal of GST on licence fee, spectrum usage charges and payment of spectrum acquired in auctions.

Other demands include refund of accumulated input tax credit of GST (Rs. 32,000 crore) and clarification regarding availability of input tax credit on critical equipment installed on telecom towers.

COAI counts telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea as its members.

COAI on Tuesday made a strong pitch for OTT (over-the-top) communication services to directly compensate telcos for data traffic they are driving onto the networks, as it advocated a licensing and light-touch regulation framework for such services. COAI Director General SP Kochhar said the association, as part of the draft telecom bill, has given its suggestions on how OTT communication services should be defined to ensure there is no ambiguity.

Other aspects like the exact financial model for OTT communication services to compensate telecom service providers will be made to the government going forward as and when the nuances of framework for light-touch regulation is discussed, Kochhar added. OTT communication services include the likes of WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegram and other similar apps.

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OTT Communication Services Should Be Licensed, Compensate Telcos for Data Traffic, COAI Says

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By Press Trust of India |  Updated: 23 November 2022 

Telecom operators’ body COAI on Tuesday made a strong pitch for OTT (over-the-top) communication services to directly compensate telcos for data traffic they are driving onto the networks, as it advocated a licensing and light-touch regulation framework for such services.

Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) Director General SP Kochhar said the association, as part of the draft telecom bill, has given its suggestions on how OTT communication services should be defined to ensure there is no ambiguity.

Other aspects like exact financial model for OTT communication services to compensate telecom service providers will be made to the government going forward as and when the nuances of framework for light-touch regulation is discussed, Kochhar told reporters at a briefing.

OTT communication services include the likes of WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegram and other similar apps.

In future, the same principle of revenue share basis data consumption can be applied to other OTTs (all categories) as well, he added. For now, COAI’s suggestions are confined to the realm of OTT communication apps, not the entire ecosystem, since the draft bill mentions communication apps.

COAI maintained that KYC is an essential requirement, be it for telcos or OTT communication services.

Industry bodies COAI and Broadband India Forum (BIF) had been locked in a pitched battle on the issue of treatment of OTTs while consultations on the draft telecom bill was underway.

The telecom service providers, under the aegis of COAI, have been pushing for OTT communication services to be brought under regulation. COAI has been propagating ‘same service same rules’ for OTT communication services and telcos, to ensure a level playing field.

On the other hand, digital think-tank BIF — which counts tech companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Cisco, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook-owner Meta as its key members — has warned that the regulation of OTT players could stifle the socioeconomic ecosystem and hurt innovation.

COAI, in a note outlining the recent submissions on the draft telecom bill, said: “The OTTs providing telecom services similar to telcos such as voice/video calling and messaging within the meaning of telecom Bill… be defined clearly, and the same regulatory and security obligations to be met by them as done by TSPs for providing similar services.” Alternatively, it said, OTT communication service providers can pay directly to the telcos for use of their networks for providing services “in a fair and equitable manner by way of an equivalent interconnect charge (say network access charge) for the actual traffic carried by these OTTs on TSPs network, which can be easily measured.” The contribution of OTTs to network costs can be based on assessable criteria such as volume of traffic, turnover threshold and number of users, among others.

COAI cited a report which estimated that 56 per cent of the global data traffic on telcos’ network is from leading OTTs. The association also went on to suggest that OTT contribution to exchequer, if a levy is put in place, could be about Rs 800 crore.

“Since the telecom service providers will be receiving the revenue from OTTs as part of their telecom services rendered, they would automatically be paying licence fee to the Government (as part of TSP’s Adjusted Gross Revenue) on an incremental basis to the extent of the payments by OTTs to the TSPs,” COAI said.

Other major recommendations of COAI — whose members include Reliance jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — include reduction of licence fee from 3 per cent to 1 per cent, a move the association says will ensure that more funds are available to players for rollout of networks. The suggestion on lowering of levies is also part of COAI’s pre-Budget wishlist to the government.

COAI further said Internet shutdowns not only affect telcos’ Average Revenue Per User, but also the consumer base.

“Non commercial infrastructure is also required to be set up by the telecom service providers in this regard, costing them. Reimbursement for the same to be considered by the Government,” COAI has suggested. There should be standard operating procedures spelt out for such actions and accountability for the same must lie with the officials initiating or supervising such actions, it noted.

Beside this, it said, contributions towards the Telecom Development Fund should be met from budgetary allocation and from amounts collected through spectrum auctions as also “from contribution from entities that cause the traffic, that is, OTTs – streaming, gaming and social media companies”.

So far as protection of users is concerned, the “Bill may be extended to cover cyber or financial fraud or unsolicited commercial communications and may include a proviso to align the powers of Telecom Department on this issue with TRAI. Ideally there should be only one body regulating the issue,” COAI said.

The draft telecom bill seeks to replace three laws — the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.

The bill proposes all Internet calling and messaging apps to comply with the Know Your Customer (KYC) provisions when they come under the telecom regulation ambit.

The telecom department has also mooted a provision for the refund of fees in case a telecom or Internet provider surrenders its licence.

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Jio, Airtel Added More Subscribers Month-on-Month in September, Vi Saw Decline, TRAI Data Shows

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 November 2022

India’s total mobile subscriber base fell by 3.6 million in September, with Vodafone Idea suffering a subscriber count decline even as larger rivals Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel added users month-on-month, according to telecom regulator’s data. India’s largest mobile operator Jio further cemented its position in the market, adding 7,20,000 wireless subscribers during September, while Bharti Airtel increased its mobile users’ tally by 4,12,000.

Notably, while Jio led peers in September subscriber additions, its net adds this time was lower than the 32,81,000 subscribers the telco had gained in August.

Ailing Vodafone Idea faced a subscriber count decline (by 40,00,000), its base shrank to 24.91 crore during September.

“Total wireless subscribers decreased from 1,149.11 million at the end of August 22 to 1,145.45 million at the end of September 22, thereby registering a monthly decline rate of 0.32 percent,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said releasing subscription data for September.

Overall, the number of telephone subscribers number in India (mobile and fixed-line together) decreased to about 117.19 crore at the end of September 2022, translating to a monthly decline rate of 0.27 percent.

TRAI said the total broadband subscribers rose to 81.6 crore at the end of September 2022, with a monthly growth rate of 0.28 percent.

The top five service providers constituted 98.36 percent market share of the total broadband subscribers at the end of September 2022.

“These service providers were Reliance Jio (426.80 million), Bharti Airtel (225.09 million), Vodafone Idea (123.20 million), BSNL (25.62 million), and Atria Convergence (2.14 million),” TRAI said.

Back in August, Reliance Jio toppled state-run BSNL to become the largest fixed-line service provider in the country, according to a TRAI report. It was the first time since the beginning of telecom services in the country that a private operator had gained the top position in the wireline segment.

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