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Cell operators in a belligerent mood

New Delhi, Oct. 11: Cellular mobile operators are yelping in rage against the de facto roaming facility offered by Reliance Infocomm and Tata Indicom and have said that the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) has not completely absolved them of the charges of violation of licence conditions.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) urging the regulator to immediately direct these two telecom operators that they should ensure that the handsets they offer are not authenticated/functional in more than one Short Distance Charging Area (SDCA).

“Private fixed line service providers are offering virtual roaming to subscribers through a combination of registration of the same handset in multiple SDCAs and call forwarding,” said COAI director general T.V. Ramachandran.

However, the Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO), led by Reliance Infocomm and Tata Indicom, claims multiple registrations is allowed under their licences.

Ramchandran said, “This is untrue and incorrect. The wireless in local loop mobile WiLL (M) handset is supposed to be non-functional outside the SDCA in which it is registered. This is evident from the fixed-line service provider licence, affidavit in Supreme Court submitted by the department of telecommunications and Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal’s order on WiLL (M) and Trai’s letter dated August 14, 2003 to DoT.”

Condition 2.2(c)(i) of FSP licence stipulates: “The licensee is allowed to provide mobility to its subscribers with wireless access system but limited to the local area, that is SDCA in which the subscriber is registered. While deploying such systems, the licensee has to follow the numbering plan of the respective SDCA within which the service is provided and it should not be possible to authenticate and work with the subscriber terminal equipment in SDCAs other than the one in which it is registered. The system shall also be so engineered to ensure that handover of subscriber does not take place from one SDCA to another SDCA while communicating.”

DoT had confirmed in an affidavit before the Supreme Court that “the crucial difference lies in the fact that in the basic service, the handset cannot be authenticated except in the SDCA itself. This means that the consumer handset becomes useless outside the SDCA. In addition, roaming facilities are not permitted. ...”

This was also the view taken by the TDSAT when it reviewed the service, says COAI.

“The most crucial difference, however, is that the WiLL (M) handset cannot be authenticated except in the SDCA itself...”

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