Foreign telcos in India seek long-distance deregulation

Dylan Bushell-Embling
17 Mar 2009

India's economy may no longer be the highly-protected 'License Raj', but its telecom sector remains infuriatingly bound up in red tape.

Foreign telcos have banded together to form a single voice lobbying for reform of India's telecom regulatory regime.

The Association of Competitive Telecom Operators (ACTO) will represent service providers focused on the enterprise market. Founding members include BT, AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Orange Business Services and Verizon Business.

They say ACTO hopes to foster a healthier business environment for operators competing in India's long-distance enterprise market.

Satyen Gupta, ACTO president and regulatory head of BT India, told Telecom Asia that the association had yet to finalize its priorities, but would push for open market competition.
'India is a key strategic location for many multinational companies, and investment in best practice across the telecommunications service sector is an increasingly critical requirement to support economic growth,' he said.

Gupta said ACTO's main challenge would be to change the conditions of India's international long distance (ILD) license.

'[The license] is predominately tailored for switched voice services and does not take cognisance of emerging technologies,' he said. ACTO believes the license must be updated to remove hindrances for enterprise data services - such as a double taxation on data services.
'ACTO plans to work with policy makers and regulators to fully integrate the impact of changing technology and new services on India's licensing and regulatory regime,' he added.

The association was also seeking a wholesale pricing regime for international connectivity, Gupta said.

ACTO's other priority will be to improve conditions for its members' customers, he said. One of its first orders of business will be to educate the Indian government and telecom regulators about the special needs of domestic and multinational enterprise customers.

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