The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Single phone licence buzz gets louder

New Delhi, Oct 4: The group of ministers (GoM) on telecom which met here today decided to work towards a unified telecom licence, which could see limited mobile operators migrating to the new system and thus continue providing roaming and other facilities which they are officially barred from offering at present.

Limited mobile operators offering roaming or any other service beyond their specified area are currently at risk of facing government action because of a recent ruling of the Telecom Dispute Settlement Apellate Tribunal.

Communication minister Arun Shourie today confirmed that those who were using limited mobiles which offered services beyond their area, were at risk as the service could be snapped.

Shourie said, “Limited mobile subscribers will avail of the service at their on risk and operators will offer at theirs. GoM will decide about the methods that need to be adopted against such operators at the next meeting.”

However, the minister indicated that these limited mobile firms would have the option of providing roaming and other services beyond their area of operation by getting a unified licence.

This implies that operators like Reliance Infocomm and Tata Indicom can continue to offer services which they are not supposed to by simply switching to a new unified licence.

The government can of course direct them to end the call originating from their limited mobiles within the geographical boundaries specified for them, before unified telecom licences come in. But to do so the government will need to bring in equipment and software needed to enforce to limit calls within a specified area.

The GoM also analysed the presentations on the impact of a switchover to a unified telecom licence which will allow licensees to offer all kinds of telecom services — cellular, fixed line, long distance and internet.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman Pradeep Baijal and another Trai member made presentations to the GoM which indicated regulatory and executive decisions needed to be taken.

Deepak Parekh, chairman of Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), in a separate presentation highlighted the financial implication for the government and telecom operators for moving from existing licences to a unified licence.

Shourie said, “One has to understand that universal licences cannot be introduced at the switch of a button. It will take time since it involves compensation to one party and fixing a new fee for unification of licences. Different formulas are being discussed and a note has been circulated to members of the GoM.”

On whether the issue of limited mobility and multiple registrations will be linked to unified licences, Shourie said, “It (the issue of limited mobility) has to be linked to universal licence. A note has been circulated among the members of GoM and it will be discussed at the next meeting on October 12 on what methods need to be taken to limit the calls.”

The GoM agreed that the defence ministry will continue to offer communication spectrum based on demand and would not need to allocate spectrum en block.

The GoM also decided that the ministries of finance and communications will work out the modalities for activating universal service fund to step up installation of rural telephones.

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