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Long thread on what the issue of unpaid AGR dues could mean for digital rights and internet access in India. 1/15 Image
Telecom operators collectively owe the Government close to INR 1.47 lakh crore in unpaid dues. Among others, Calculations of the DOT show that Airtel has to pay INR 35,586 crore and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) owes INR 53,000 crore. 2/15
These figures are disputed by Airtel and VIL who claim that the amounts owed are around half of DOT estimates. The unpaid dues stem from license fees and spectrum usage charges. There are increasing risks that VIL may exit the market 3/15
Indian would then be left with just two private telecom operators in Jio and Airtel. The health of India’s telecom sector is intrinsically linked with the September 2016 entry of Jio which was instrumental in driving internet adoption across the country 4/15
In the time period ending September 2016 India had 367.48 million internet users of which 175.18 million were narrowband. By September 2019 India has 625.42 million internet users of which 625.42 million are broadband 5/15
ARPU’s fell from 141 in April - June 2016 time period, to INR 78.17 in July - September 2019 6/15……
Although more affordable, authorities must guard against risks of predatory pricing . If unchecked, players get squeezed out of markets, on account of clout as opposed to innovation. Telecom and competition laws must be rationalised to hold players accountable 7/15
IFF has done its own mapping of telecom financials post Jio’s entry. We observed, industry-wide Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) dropped considerably 8/15…
This report also shows how telecom earnings measured via EBITDA dropped for three consecutive years 9/15…
A little over three years after its market entry by November 2019, Jio has cornered around 58 percent (369.93 million) of India’s total broadband subscribers 10/15…
The issue with such consolidation is the adverse impact it has on choice in information/content markets. This becomes magnified when telecom players start vertically integrating upstream/downstream value chains, where content and distribution is done by the same players 11/15
With fewer players, both consumer choice and human rights are at risk. For instance, in Jio’s submission to TRAI’s data privacy, security and ownership consultation it advocated for the government to curtail encryption and to localise data storage 12/15…
Research organisations like @cis_india have also discovered that market incumbents are able to use their dominance and deploy privacy invasive traffic inspections techniques (called deep packet inspections) through which it blocks websites. 13/15…
Swift action is required to hold telecom incumbents accountable. One of those avenues is strong net neutrality enforcement. 14/15
IFF wrote to TRAI for its latest net neutrality consultation. We highlighted the discretionary risks of class-based traffic management, how multistakeholder governance should be inclusive by design and avoid telecom capture. 15/15
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