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TRAI mulls charges for existing, newly allocated numbering resources to ensure efficient use

TRAI in its recent consultation paper -- 'Revision of National Numbering Plan' -- has asserted that numbers represent an exceedingly valuable public resource which is not infinite.
Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 16:29 IST

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New Delhi: Telecom regulator TRAI has sought stakeholders' view on whether charges should be introduced for existing and newly allocated numbering resources to ensure their judicious and efficient use.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also hinted it would consider imposition of financial disincentive for telecom service providers who retain allocated numbers that lay unutilised beyond a set timeframe, and sought stakeholder views on the issue.

TRAI in its recent consultation paper -- 'Revision of National Numbering Plan' -- has asserted that numbers represent an exceedingly valuable public resource which is not infinite.

As of now, telecommunication identifier (TI) resources for both mobile and fixed-line services are allocated to service providers free of charge.

The ownership of the numbering space resides with the government, granting service providers usage rights over the designated number resource during the tenure of their licenses.

TRAI, however, noted that simply adhering to strict criteria for assigning numbering resources might not ensure judicious and efficient use of freely allotted numbering resources by service providers.

"One way of ensuring judicious and efficient use of any finite public resource is by imposing charges while allocating it. Efficient utilisation can be further ensured by introducing penal provision for those holding numbering resources with low utilisation," TRAI said in a recently circulated consultation paper.

The allocation of numbering resources in some of the nations is done on a chargeable basis, covering categories like mobile numbering resources, vanity numbers, and numbers for national interest.

"Hence, it may be prudent to consider charging the TSPs with a nominal fee against numbering resource allocated," it wrote.

Possible mechanisms for charging these resources include imposing a one-time charge per number or per numbering resource block being allocated; imposing an annual recurring charge for each numbering resource allocated to the service provider, including de-activated numbers of prior allocation but pending reuse; or allocating numbering series excluding the vanity numbers for free, with the government conducting centralised auctions for the vanity numbers.

Another possible mechanism mentioned by TRAI in the consultation paper is imposing some financial disincentive (FD) on telcos who keep holding to certain percentage or more of the allocated resources unused beyond a certain time frame.

"A provision can also be made for TSPs to surrender certain contiguous unutilised numbering resources back to DoT from the allocated numbering resource," it said.

However, TRAI also highlighted the flip side, saying that implementing charges might entail certain downsides.

"One major disadvantage is that the charges are likely to be passed on to customers by the service providers. In view of the aforesaid the authority seeks views of the stakeholders on the following questions...," TRAI said.

TRAI has asked "whether charges should be introduced for existing and newly allocated TI resources to ensure their efficient utilisation" and if so, what should be the charging mechanism and applicable charges.

"Should a financial disincentive be imposed upon TSPs for retaining X per cent or more of the allocated TIs remaining as unutilised beyond a certain timeframe? If yes, please specify the X per cent with suggested disincentive mechanism and retention timeframe with detailed justification," it said.

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Published 13 June 2024, 16:29 IST

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