TRAI's free data proposal to boost digital inclusion fails to amuse DoT
The DoT believes that the costing model of TRAI for providing this free data as Rs 10 per MB is an over-simplification of costs.
To boost digital inclusion in rural areas, Telecom regulator TRAI's proposal to offer 100 MB of free data a month from the USO Fund (USOF) kitty has not amused department of telecom (DoT), which may turn down the proposal as the latter feels that the fund utilisation is not meant for this Rs 600 crore scheme, said a newspaper report.
According to the report, the DoT believes that the costing model of TRAI for providing this free data as Rs 10 per MB is an over-simplification of costs. "Taking into account such monthly data packs of about 100 MB being offered by service providers at present, it has been found that the actual cost per MB is on the higher side," the report said.
The delivery, management costs and subscribers can easily project a total cost Rs 600 crore, which is not worth the spent on such a scheme, the report said, while quoting sources as saying, “The availability of funds in USOF is limited and committed and free data through USOF is not feasible.”
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It may be noted that the USO Fund is sustained by a 5 per cent levy charged from private operators and with decline in the overall revenue of the sector the amount is also falling. Last year, its revenue was reportedly pegged at Rs 6,000 crore.
Trai has reportedly recommended the same plan second time after being asked once by the department to revise the proposals with regard to funding 100 MB free data from the USO Fund. The report quoting DoT sources said that USOF is an institutional fund meant for providing connectivity for rural and remote subscribers through government-sponsored infrastructure projects like BhartNet.
“The aim of USOF is to create general infrastructure in rural and remote areas for development of telecommunication facilities. The proposed scheme of TRAI does not target the poor users who live in urban areas, but do not have access to internet services. This makes the applicability of this scheme very limited in scope. Moreover, all rural users do not require the scheme. If implemented, it may weaken the focus on telecom infrastructure projects, which are a key priority area for DoT”, DoT had reportedly told TRAI.