BSNL & MTNL may go to TDSAT against unblocking last mile

Public sector telecom firms BSNL and MTNL on Sunday said regulator Trai’s direction on opening up domestic leased circuit (DLC) would lead to hoarding of last mile connections by the private sector, rendering the two PSUs uncompetitive.

The two PSUs have also not ruled out the possibility of challenging Trai’s order in the telecom dispute settlement tribunal TDSAT.

Sources said Trai’s latest regulation on DLC is nothing but a reversal of government’s stated principle and policy of not unbundling the local loop (last mile of copper wires that connect individual homes/offices with local exchanges) and thus questioned the regulator’s jurisdiction on the same. BSNL and MTNL are the only operators who have laid maximum cable between the exchange and the subscribers’ premises and attempts have been made earlier to unbundle this for the use by the private operators.

Trai had earlier, under the chairmanship of Pradip Baijal, recommended this and the same was rejected both by the then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and the two PSUs. As per Trai’s regulation order, it mandates the service providers to confirm availability or otherwise to requesting service providers within 30 days.

BSNL officials said unblocking of last mile network had been done through a commercial relationship so far, but now with this regulation this would become a mandate. Asked what would be next step, they said there was no option but to challenge the order legally.

Sources also said the regulation would discourage rolling out wire line networks by the private service providers. Director (finance) S D Saxena and his MTNL counterpart Anita Soni said they would take an appropriate decision after examining the order. Trai had said these regulations would benefit both the customers and the service providers as this is expected to boost competition, allow consumers a wider choice of service providers and make DLCs available at a reasonable price. But the PSUs are of the view this would only help private operators to prevent them from growing and offer competition to private players.