TRAI initiates process to define rules for network testing before commercial launch

Reliance Jio’s entry in Indian telecom has brought a new phase of competition followed by string of new issues as well acrimony between existing telecom operators and Jio. Reliance Jio’s free offers and aggressive pricing earned the company more than 100 mn customers but in the process exposed few grey areas of telecom industry such as predatory pricing, market dominance, fair competition, promotional offers,  network testing process etc. compelling telecom regulator TRAI to take initiatives to address them. Earlier TRAI had initiated the process to discuss issues related to predatory pricing and market dominance etc and now it has floated a new consultation paper to explore varied aspects of network testing before commercial launch.

This issue cropped up as Reliance Jio launched its services in the name of testing and started enrolling millions of customers for this purpose. Since September 2016 till March 2017 Jio offered its services free of cost acquiring more than 100mn customers on its network and subsequently these customers were introduced to paid subscriptions. Generally for testing network elements telecom operators introduce test sim which are used by employees and its channel partners and commercial launch is performed thereafter but Jio chose altogether a new strategy by enrolling large number of customers for network testing.  As per TRAI currently license does not provide clear guidelines on testing of network and processes such as time-line of testing, acquisition of subscribers during test-phase, limit on number of SIM cards that can be issued etc. Any telecom operator providing full-blown services during test phase may have implications on the IUC, pricing, QoS and other regulatory aspects and as such can be viewed against the spirit of level playing field. Issues like prolonged network testing, extended free offers in the name of promotions, IUC, POI, predatory pricing etc have been bone of contention between Jio and incumbent operators as they find their way to the doorsteps of TRAI and TDSAT.

In this consultation paper TRAI has asked for comments from stakeholders on issues such as enrolling customers as test users, differentiating test phase and commercial launch, duration of testing phase and regulatory reporting requirements for customers enrolled during testing network. Comments can be submitted till 29th May 2017 and counter comments by 12th June 2017 on TRAI’s website.

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Zainul lbad is a management graduate and tech enthusiast. He shares keen interest in exploring mobile gadgets, telecom technologies and applications.