| Shourie: Promises all the way
New Delhi, Oct. 12: The group of ministers on telecom today said calls from limited mobile phones would be confined to the local area, but the claim rang hollow in a situation where Reliance exploits loop-holes in the licence to enable its subscribers hop across phone boundaries.
The panel’s decision seeks to keep calls within what is called the short distance charging area (SDCA) in telecom parlance. Roughly, it means a radius of 25 kms.
However, a recent report by Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) showed how companies violated the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal’s (TDSAT) order restricting their calls within the local area. It is the gaps in the licence conditions of basic telecom operators that allowed them to get around the curbs.
The report said Reliance Infocomm offers a facility called Temporary Subscription Service (TSS), which allows a phone user to traipse from one local area to another with different numbers and separate registrations.
Communications and information technology minister Arun Shourie said he was confident the government would enforce the ruling of TDSAT and “necessary steps will be taken soon in this regard”.
He refused to say what precisely the department of telecommunications (DoT) would do to make this possible. Nor did he set time within which the order of TDSAT would become a reality. All he said was that the exercise would involve Trai. Asked just how the calls will be reined in, Shourie said nothing beyond a terse “we will do it”.
Today’s decision effectively means there will be no fetters on limited mobility firms offering customers the facility to flit across circles by changing numbers as they move.
On unified licence, the ministers decided to wait for the recommendations of Trai on the conditions and fee under such a system before taking a final call on the issue.
The panel of ministers proposed an allocation of 6.2 megahertz of spectrum from the defence ministry to every wireless-in-local loop (WiLL) and cellular operator. The first batch will be released in a month.
Spectrum is the air-wave operators use to carry voice and data. After today’s addition, each telecom company in India will have around 12 megahertz — close to Singapore’s figure of 12.6 megahertz but a far cry from the 26.3 megahertz that a small country like UK has.
The actual allocation, and the unified licence terms, will be decided on October 30.