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Handset handcuffs off limited mobile phone subscribers

New Delhi, July 17: The handset handcuffs are off.

The telecom regulator today directed Reliance Infocomm and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to offer the same tariff plan to subscribers who buy their handsets from the open market as they do to those who choose the bundled option.

The biggest advantage of this directive is that subscribers to limited mobility services will now have the freedom to migrate to a rival service provider if they are unhappy with the quality of service.

This will provide the same freedom of choice that cellular subscribers enjoy.

Both Reliance Infocomm and BSNL had announced tariff plans early this month that bundled the handset in the package.

Limited mobility service providers had tried to pre-empt the migration of subscribers — the so-called churn that cellular service providers fear — by offering these bundled tariff plans that would lock-in a subscriber for a period of three years.

Under its Monsoon Hungama tariff plan, Reliance Infocomm had offered a mobile phone on an upfront payment of Rs 501. BSNL had devised a Rs 20-a-month scheme. Both have informed the regulator that the same tariff plan will now be offered to those users who bring their own handsets.

Trai member D.P.S Seth said, “We wanted to ensure that both schemes were available to the customers irrespective of the handset. They have informed us that it would be available and we have asked them to inform the public in clear terms.”

The authority had asked the two service providers to explain the features of their handset offers which had been announced recently. It also held meetings with these operators and sought clarifications on various points.

While examining tariff schemes, Seth said, “The regulator does not regulate handset prices or financing/leasing/insurance schemes for handsets. It regulates only telecom tariffs and any handset offer must make sure that all the tariff plans available in the market are on offer to the customer whether he procures/obtains the handset from the service provider or from any other source.”

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