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Net neutrality: TRAI to decide on spectrum, data pricing by next week

Telecom regulator Trai will firm up its view on spectrum price for the next round of auction and differential pricing of data, which is central to the Net neutrality issue, by the end of this month.

“We will finalise recommendations on spectrum price by the end of this month… even on differential price (of data), whatever we have to say will be done by the end of the month,” Trai Chairman R S Sharma told reporters today on the sidelines of Convergence India 2016 here.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has put out a consultation paper on a reference made by the government to suggest the base or floor price for all available airwaves for mobile services.

The government had pegged revenue from communication services for the current fiscal at Rs 42,865 crore, which include upfront realisation from spectrum sale and licence fee.

According to an official source, the government will be able to meet the Budget target even without the auction, but still a section of the government wants the auction by March to keep fiscal deficit in check.

Sources see slim chances of the spectrum auction going through in the current financial year because of the processes involved, and the main procedure will start after Trai submits its suggestions on the pricing aspect. The regulator is pulling out all the stops to speed up the process.

On differential pricing of data, Trai has received maximum comments on any of its consultation paper issued till date.

As things stand, telecom operators are making a strong pitch for differential pricing for data services, which is pricing of the Internet based on its usage and business case.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Indian IT industry through Nasscom, Internet-based companies though IAMAI and many Internet forums are opposed to zero-rating platforms.

IAMAI members include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like.

However, Facebook is one of those select few Internet companies that have come out with its support for differential pricing of data.

The last date to receive feedback on the Trai paper was December 30, which was later pushed back to January 7. Trai has received some 24 lakh comments on the issue.

Releasing the details, Trai has said it received only 1.89 million responses through Facebook’s platform supporting its Free Basics programme to make parts of the Internet available for free whereas the social network put it at more than 11 million.

The social media giant feels there’s something amiss and has shot off a letter to Trai, saying “someone with access to designated Trai e-mail account appears to have blocked receipt of all e-mails from Facebook to that Trai account.

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