COAI responds to Indian telecom data traffic and infrastructure costs

by Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General, COAI

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“The debate on whether the Large Traffic Generating (LTG) platforms/applications – which put a disproportionate amount of data traffic on the networks – should contribute towards the associated network costs, is a prevalent topic across the world today, including India. While these LTGs consume a significant portion of internet bandwidth, leading to increased network costs for operators, they currently pay no direct fees for utilizing this infrastructure. This disparity hinders the operators’ ability to invest in network upgrades and expansion such as launch of 5G services in India – ultimately impacting service quality for consumers.

Against the misconceived suggestions by the LTG advocates to the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to raise consumer tariffs to recover the network expenses for the sector’s sustainability, the telcos have adopted a clear, unambiguous and consumer-centric approach, not to burden the end-user for the purpose.

Instead, a more practical approach using statistics and facts to arrive at conclusions logically, has now been adopted through a White Paper on “Addressing Rising Data Traffic and Associated Infrastructure Costs in Indian Telecom”. This paper studies the emerging scenario, the significance of responsible sharing of infrastructure development, maintenance and upgradation costs, and brings out the need for contribution by different stakeholders.

The White Paper discusses the Capex and data traffic for 2014-2023, made clearly with segmentations of the growth patterns observed during the period, wherein 3 distinct patterns emerge. The data thus captured, has been mapped graphically to bring out the additional burden of LTG traffic, supported by statistics and simple math.

With the above analysis, COAI has formulated 5 models of resolution to the issue at hand, with 2 of these models being workable solutions. However, the final recommendation is for a model that keeps MSMEs and Startups out of the ambit of fair-share (as consistently maintained and intended by the TSPs), and shows that the burden on the TSPs due to the LTGs’ growing traffic patterns, even without the smaller players, is substantial and needs to be addressed.

All other concerns voiced from time to time have been addressed in this model, which has been submitted as the recommended mode to the Government in the White Paper.”