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Move to end telecom tussle

New Delhi, July 16: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today issued a consultation paper on ‘unified licensing’ for basic and cellular mobile services — a move that could end the raging battle between limited and unlimited mobile service providers.

The unified licensing regime, as envisaged in the paper, would enable the ‘service providers’ to offer both fixed and mobile services.

The consultation paper will open a debate on whether the existing telecom service providers would like to migrate from a service-specific regime to a unified licensing regime that is prevalent in a number of countries.

Unified licensing has recently been mandated for the countries within the European Union.

The regulator believes a single licence would benefit the service providers and consumers as there would be efficiency gains through synergies of infrastructure, networks and services.

Currently the basic (fixed line service providers) and cellular mobile service operators have been issued separate licences. The regulator in its paper claims that “a certain amount of convergence in the terms and conditions of licence already exists such as both the basic and cellular operators pay the same annual license fees, both the service providers have common access to Universal Service Fund and can offer mobility (though the extent is different).”

However, there still exist certain differences on issues such as varying amounts of entry fee paid at the time of migration, amount of spectrum allocation, rollout obligation. But the vital issue on which major differences exist include entry fees paid by cellular operators at the time of migration which is higher than that paid by the basic operators.

Moreover, the amount of entry fees paid by the fourth cellular operator is higher than that being paid by new fixed line operators. While the CMSPs are permitted mobility within the entire service area, basic operators have been allowed to offer mobility only in the Short Distance Charging Area (SDCA).

Further, the rollout obligations mentioned in the licences is different in case of basic operators and cellular operators. The performance bank guarantee for basic operators is higher than that of cellular operators.

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