The government has decided to make it mandatory for telecom service providers to give at least 30 days advance notice to subscribers before shutting down their services, a top government official said. The development has come against the background of abrupt closure of services by some telecom operators recently which left their subscribers in lurch.
The new rule is part of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendations on ‘Closure of Access Services’ that were approved by the Telecom Commission at its meeting held Wednesday. “This was from point of view of ease of doing business and also customers are not put to great difficulty. It was decided that the customers are given 30 days notice before a service shut down and the licensor and Trai should be notified 60 calendar days in advance. Earlier no time limit was there,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters here.
Following approval of Trai’s recommendation, the subscriber would also not need to port his mobile number on same network if a particular technology is closed down but will need to port out if entire services of telecom operator are shut down.
The commission for the convenience of a telecom operator approved that in case the company wants to close down services partially, it will not be required to surrender an entire licence. “Licensee can be permitted to discontinue the services without the need to surrender the licence. The UAS licence will be amended to that effect,” Sundararajan said.
The commission decided that in case a telecom operator wants to trade spectrum held by it for mobile services, the company will need to inform the Department of Telecom and Trai before 45 days of actual transaction date for partial sale and 60 days in advance for complete sale of radiowaves.
“The DoT will need to revert within 15 days in first case and 21 days in second case in order to further enhance ease of doing business,” Sundararajan said.
The commission also approved the reduction in spectrum usage charge (SUC) for internet service providers who use radio waves in high-frequency range to fill the gap in their network connectivity at the last mile access (subscriber’s end) and not for creating a ubiquitous mobile network across the entire telecom circle.
“In the case of ISP and VSAT licencee, no minimum presumptive AGR (part of entry fee paid by them) should be made applicable to them. SUC should be levied at 1 per cent so as to cover administrative charges and there should be no financial bank guarantee for ISP licences,” Sundararajan said.
Out of 262 ISP licence holders, only 15 ISPs have been assigned spectrum by DoT for period of one or two years only.
DoT will continue providing them spectrum on administrative basis 2.7 GHz, 3.3 GHz, 5.7 GHz and 10.5 GHz bands. Besides this decision, the commission also approved escalated cost of rolling out broadband network by state government under phase 2 of BharatNeT project.
The commission approved Rs 405 crore capital expenditure, revised from Rs 375 crore, proposed by Odisha with 8 per cent (of capex) separate administrative expense, 3 per cent contingency and 6 per cent operational expense for period of three years.
Similarly for Andhra Pradesh it revised capex budget to Rs 998 crore from Rs 847 crore earlier, Jharkhand to Rs 490 crore from Rs 398 crore, Maharashtra to Rs 2,709 crore from Rs 1,871 crore and Gujarat to Rs 1,943 crore for BharatNet phase 2.
The government has plans to connect all 2.5 lakh village panchayats by optical fibre base broadband network by March 2019.