Telecom regulator TRAI on Monday suggested that firms shutting down services based on one technology while switching to another should give two months notice to licensor and one month heads-up to subscribers, listing out options before them including port outs.
TRAI has also recommended specific timelines for the to revert to companies with objections, if any, on spectrum trading proposals, and also spell out deadline for companies to file their responses.
The proposals form part of TRAI’s latest recommendations to the DoT on closure of access services by companies, and aim to ensure that subscribers are not put to “undue hardships” when such events occur.
TRAI said continuation of access services is now no longer “assured” due to market-based spectrum management.
“Recently, there have been cases where due to reasons such as licensee failing to re-acquire its spectrum holding in a band on expiry of its licence validity period, change of technology deployed by licensee … there has been closure of access services being provided by the licencee,” the said.
Other reasons for discontinuation of services could be sale of entire holding through spectrum trading, and end of roaming arrangements, it noted.
In its recommendations, TRAI has said that a Unified Access Service licensee (an old category of licences) should be allowed to discontinue any of the services within its portfolio, without surrendering the licence.
This effectively means that if a licencee under this category has wireline and wireless services, and decides to close the latter, it should not have to surrender the licence.
Such a provision currently exists for all new permits issued under the category of Unified Licence (UL), and the regulator’s recommendation seeks to bring parity between the different licence categories.
“The scope of UL with access service authorisation and UASL is similar. Therefore, there is no apparent rationale in having different clause for closure of access services in each of these licences,” Trai said in its recommendations posted on its website.
At the same time, Trai has said that such licencees should surrender the ‘administratively assigned spectrum’, if any, immediately upon closure of wireless access services.
Also, right now existing licence provisions state that operator has to ensure continuity of access services to subscribers, not the continuity of technology.
This means change or discontinuation of a technology, is not treated as discontinuation of service, and hence companies were so far not bound to send prior notice to the subscribers.
TRAI has now said: “In case of closure of access services through any technology in the entire service area or a part of it, the TSP (operator) should be mandated to give a 60 days notice to the licensor and TRAI, and 30 days notice to its effected subscribers, stating the options available to the subscribers including that of Mobile Number Portability (port out) facility.”
At times, complete change of technology requires change of handsets, as in the case of a switchover from CDMA to GSM technology.
“They (subscribers) should be informed that in case they don’t want to change their handset, they can port-out their number to other operators. Information about both the alternatives should be available to them well in advance so that subscribers can take an informed decision,” it said.
Trai has also said that if a subscriber wants to switch from one technology to other, within the same operator, the same should not come under the definition Mobile Number Portability.
The regulator said its recommendation on various timelines to be followed by the DoT and licensee in the spectrum trading process, will bring “greater clarity and certainty” in the process.