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DoT asked to tie up loose ends in cellular licences

New Delhi, Sept. 24: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has urged the department of telecommunications (DoT) to resolve the differences in the service licence agreements of cellular mobile operators before making any move towards the proposed unified licence that is expected to come into effect by this year-end.

While the group of ministers on telecom will discuss the modalities on Thursday, the telecom commission has directed the DoT to amend the service licence agreements of the cellular mobile operators.

This is aimed at removing the difference in licence agreements of cellular mobile service providers (CMSPs) issued to them at different periods.

A letter written by Trai to DoT says, “The important terms and conditions relating to publication of telephones service directory, interface and network interconnection, emergency and public service utility of old cellular mobile telecom service (CMTS) licensee (for which the necessary amendments have not been issued) are not on a par with the new CMTS licence.”

The letter points out, “Incidentally, there are two terms and conditions relating to level of interconnection between CMSPs and fixed line service providers and issued to old licence and new licence agreements. DoT is requested to issue necessary amendments to maintain a level playing field.”

Trai sources said, “A new directive for a unified licence has to come from the cabinet after the group of ministers take a decision. The government has already indicated that it would prefer to have a unified licence and a consultation paper has been issued by Trai. We do not want complications if a migration is allowed for the existing operators. Hence, we have asked them to tie up the loose ends.”

In 1994, licence agreements for CMTS were signed with two private operators in each of the four metro cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai. Further, 34 licences were signed with private companies in 1995 out of which four licences were terminated. Currently, there are 38 CMTS licensees as first and second operators all over the country.

In 2001, licence agreements with fourth cellular operators were signed and these were very different from the earlier licences signed in 1994 and the ones signed in 1999 when operators were allowed to migrate to a revenue-sharing arrangement with the government from a licence fee regime.

Although various amendments were made to bring on a par all licences that were issued during this period, Trai says certain differences still exist. It feels this may open up a spate of litigations if not corrected once the unified licence comes into effect.

“We are in discussions with the regulator and have also given our comments. It would be sorted out before the introduction of a unified licence,” said a senior Telecom Commission member.

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