New Delhi, Oct. 27: The telecom regulator today suggested a roadmap for a unified licence regime for landline and cellular telephony services that will kick in over the next six months.
The move, which will create a level-playing field among telecom operators and end the blizzard of litigation that has been witnessed over the past year, is designed to create a technology-neutral platform for the provision of telecom services. It will allow a subscriber to opt for any telecom service from a single operator.
The union communications ministry today accepted, in toto, the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). This will now be discussed by the Group of Ministers on Telecom on Thursday.
The fixed-line telephony operators will have to pay an entry fee for the transition to a unified licensing regime, which will be the difference between the licence fee paid by the fourth cellular operator and the entry fee that was paid by the basic service operator for the existing licence.
Cellular operators will be allowed to migrate to the new regime without payment of any additional entry fee.
Further, there will be no entry fee for the existing service providers, where no fourth cellular operator had bid for licences. These circles include Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar, and Assam.
The telecom operators will have the freedom to decide whether they wish to migrate to the new licensing regime. Those who decide against it will be allowed to continue under the present licensing regime (with the existing terms and conditions).
Wireless-in-local-loop mobile (WiLL-M) players who do not wish to migrate to the full mobility regime will only be required to pay the fee for WiLL(M), with mobility strictly restricted within the short-distance charging area (SDCA). This is in line with Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal’s direction.
The licence fee, service area, rollout obligations and performance bank guarantee under the new licensing regime will be same as for existing cellular service providers.
The Trai recommendations take into account the technological developments in the sector, extended scope of services provided by new technologies, and the falling cost of wireless services. The regulator said the blurring of differences between wire-line and wireless options, and increasing competition among these services, had made a unified licence regime imperative.
The regulator has pointed that the converging tariffs for wire-line and wireless services, and the international trend for non-service specific licences, has necessitated a process of authorisation/converged licences.
“The communications ministry has firmed up its plans and have no issues with Trai recommendations. This will be forwarded to group of ministers on telecom on Tuesday,” communications minister Arun Shourie said. Trai said the migration from the existing licensing regime — where there is a separate licence for fixed line, cellular and internet services — to a unified licensing/authorisation regime will be achieved in a two-stage process.
In the first phase, a unified access regime for basic and cellular services has been offered, which will allow them to migrate to a unified licence, based on the guidelines and rules to be finalised in discussions with all stake holders.
The guidelines for unified licensing will be notified by the licensor based on Trai’s recommendations, and will include a nominal entry fee and a universal service obligations fee.
The charge for spectrum shall be set separately through an appropriate mechanism. The choice of area/service under the new licence regime will be left to the operator.