Insanities in Indian Telecom
Much has happened in the past few months. I could sit back and report on every single issue. However, I had to wait for the final resolution on the same. The first and the foremost is that Reliance has had to pay out the fine it was forced on them for the non-payment of the dues. BSNL blew the lid on the “scam” that involved changing the caller ID from abroad to local calls in order to avoid paying the access deficit charge.
Well, I really doubt whether the ones in BSNL are really smart enough to pull this out. I believe that it is the dirty tricks department of the other operators who might have tipped off. Now we get to hear that Department of Telecom too has jumped in the fray and issued notices to Reliance on the same. After getting no relief from the TDSAT and Supreme Court, it had to pay up the fine or risk loosing its license.
Herein, Reliance has kept its lawyers extremely busy over the past few months. I am not taking sides over who is wrong and who is not, but so far, the media has been focusing totally on Reliance. The left parties, given their animosity to Reliance demanded removal of the TRAI chief for good. I fail to understand that how the removal is going to prevent what has been happening for the past few months. Well, with moth eaten brains and even worse ideas, everyone chose to ignore the basic reason behind the diversion of calls. It is simply Access Deficit Charge.
In my earlier columns too, I have been raising this particular point that ADC does not help the telecom industry in anyway. Instead, it diverts the real resources to spread telecom far and wide. Given the onus on the government owned agencies, they ought to have spread the rural telephony far and wide. How much time you need? 50 years is not sufficient? Despite the ADC component in place, we have seen growth of mobile phones rather than fixed line telephony. BSNL is loosing its telephone connections on a rapid scale that is not reported widely in the media. Perhaps because it is paid exposure anyway. ADC is unfriendly and anti competitive. BSNL declared a profit of almost 5000 crores. Much of it was the ADC component that was reflected in their books.
Obviously, as it happens, there is bogey of national security that has been raised. Clearly, once the ADC goes off and BSNL is not subsidized indirectly, we could see some semblance of sanity there. Free form competition would bring down the prices considerably. For too long we have had to suffer at the hands of ill designed and badly implemented policies of Department of Telecom. For heavens sake! Leave this alone and think of the end consumer.
Broadband is officially a non-starter. BSNL did introduce and barring a few exchanges that were covered, only a few people are utilizing the same. The download limits kick on in by June 30. 1 GB of download limit is asinine. Rs.2 per MB is proposed to be levied thereafter. That means that another GB of data would cost you almost Rs.2000/- If that is the rough calculation, factor in the tax that you would have to pay on your phone bills. After the download limit kicks in, use your broadband not even for checking you email. See the modem and kick yourself on your stupidity to invest in one. However, there is a BIG if here. If, the prices for the bandwidth gets cut down or TRAI wakes up from its slumber and actually decides to take pro consumer action, then it might just make sense to invest in one. Be prepared though to put up with a lousy customer care and technical support. Or well, you could bribe someone to help you out. In India, anything is possible.
Reliance has come out with its anniversary offer. It is offering the double of the talk time when you recharge for the same. Looking back, these people can be justifiably proud of themselves and pat themselves on their backs. They have expanded at a breakneck speed and got their fundamentals absolutely right.
Well, the GSM majors Airtel and Idea were forced to eat crow recently. In a rare proactive step taken by TRAI, they were forced to refund the money taken on behalf of the migration fee. The migration fee was ostensibly taken for shifting from one plan to another. If that sounds rude, it really is. Who gave them right to do so? I fail to understand that why their licenses were not cancelled for dereliction of duties and anti consumer action. All these companies were asked to do was to refund the fee. Anywhere else, they would have to pay a penalty with interest on the same. It really is a shame that anything goes in the name of doing business. Why would these people need fancy people to endorse their products? Are they falling short of money? Or they wish to hire another army of morons and intellectually challenged idiots to serve them?
Over and above, there is enough muck that can be raised at these people. In the name of telecom services, there is much more than that meets the eye. I hope that one-day customer would truly be the king. Until that time happens, I do not want that illusion for myself at least.