‘Tel­cos Can Re­tain Li­cence Af­ter Clo­sure’

But must in­form users about plan in ad­vance, re­turn spec­trum won with­out par­tic­i­pat­ing in auc­tion: Trai

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New Delhi: A tele­com car­rier can shut ser­vices with­out sur­ren­der­ing its li­cence, but must im­me­di­ately re­turn the spec­trum it got with­out par­tic­i­pat­ing in an auc­tion as well as in­form cus­tomers about the plan 30 days in ad­vance, the sec­tor reg­u­la­tor has sug­gested. The Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia (Trai) also rec­om­mended rules mak­ing it com­pul­sory for com­pa­nies to give a 60-day no­tice to the reg­u­la­tor and the tele­com depart­ment if they want to move to a dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy or close down op­er­a­tions by selling air­waves. It also sug­gested a tweak in spec­trum trad­ing rules to give the time­line for the pro- cess, as well as a change in the def­i­ni­tion of mo­bile num­ber porta­bil­ity to ex­clude from its purview those switch­ing from one tech­nol­ogy to an­other within the same op­er­a­tor. Th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions are aimed at stream­lin­ing the process for com­pa­nies that want to shut op­er­a­tions as well as ease user pain points.

DoT can re­ject re­quests to close down a ser­vice ‘only when war­ranted’ in the in­ter­est of the pub­lic or na­tional se­cu­rity, or in the event of na­tional emer­gen­cies like war, Trai said.

Cur­rently, there are sev­eral exit op­tions avail­able for tel­cos, in­clud­ing trad­ing or out­right sale of air­waves, non-re­newal of spec­trum, mov­ing to a dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy or by end­ing a sha- ring agree­ment.

Re­cently, there have been cases where due to trad­ing of spec­trum and up­grad­ing of tech­nol­ogy, there has been dis­con­ti­nu­ity of ser­vices to the sub­scribers, Trai said while is­su­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions on Mon­day. “Cer­tain is­sues arose due to th­ese events,” it said, with­out spec­i­fy­ing the is­sues.

A Trai of­fi­cial said it got con­sumer feed­back on its por­tal spec­i­fy­ing is­sues of dis­rup­tion in ser­vice due to clo­sure. The rec­om­men­da­tions, which will go to DoT for a fi­nal say, come at a time when sev­eral merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions are un­der­way, which will even­tu­ally lead to clo­sure of ser­vice for some car­ri­ers like Te­lenor In­dia and Video­con whose air­waves are be­ing bought by Bharti Air­tel. Be­sides, Re­liance Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Sis­temaAir­cel and Voda­fone In­di­aIdea Cel­lu­lar are in­volved in merger pro­cesses.

“If a UAS (Uni­fied Ac­cess Ser­vice) li­censee de­cides to close down its wire­less ac­cess ser­vices, which were be­ing pro­vided through the ad­min­is­tra­tively as­signed spec­trum, for which it has not paid the mar­ket dis­cov­ered price, it must sur­ren­der such spec­trum im­me­di­ately upon clo­sure of wire­less ac­cess ser­vices,” the reg­u­la­tor said. In­dia started auc­tion­ing band­width in 2010, and be­fore that air­waves were al­lo­cated for a fixed price and were termed ad­min­is­tra­tively as­signed spec­trum.

The reg­u­la­tor has also sug­gested tweak­ing the spec­trum trad­ing guide­lines to in­clude time­lines for DoT to raise any ob­jec­tions and de­mand dues. DoT can be given 15 days to flag ob­jec­tions, in­stead of 14 days or two weeks be­fore, it said. The trad­ing par­ties should also get the same time to re­spond.

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