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Trai drafting single licence plan

July 16, 2003 14:09 IST

In a significant move that will have wide ranging impact on the telecom sector, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Wednesday kicked-off the process to move towards 'unified licence' regime, which would enable service providers to offer both fixed and mobile services under one licence.

In a consultation paper issued on Wednesday, Trai has sought views from stakeholders on various issues such as terms and conditions for migrating from service-specific licence to a unified licence regime.

The move by Trai to start the process of consultation assumes significance in the wake of Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal order on the legal battle between cellular operators and basic operators offering WLL mobile services, expected soon.

The scope of the consultation would touch upon entry fee, extent of mobility, roll out obligations, performance bank guarantee and spectrum allocation procedure, Trai said.

Another important issue on which Trai has invited stakeholders' opinion pertains to terms and conditions for consolidation in the industry and the need to have guidelines to check such dominance.

Earlier, Trai had said there was pressure from banks and financial institutions for some rescue package to ward off a collapse due to staggering losses being suffered by major segments of the industry.

Trai has asked the industry and other stakeholders to give their views on the issue by August 7.

Trai said the unified licence would benefit both service providers and consumers, as there would be efficiency gains through synergies of infrastructure, networks and services.

Elaborating on the differences on terms and conditions, Trai said the amount of entry fee paid by cellular operators at the time of migration was higher than that paid by the basic operators.

Similarly, the extent of mobility differed for both the services with basic operators permitted mobility only in local call area called Short Distance Charging Area.

These, along with other issues, would now be deliberated upon by Trai in consultation with the operators.

While Cellular Operators Association of India has petitioned the government for relief against a staggering over Rs 7,100-crore (Rs 71-billion) accumulated losses by the operators, a unified licence system could mean a fresh inflow of revenue to the cash-starved government as any operator would be allowed to venture into other services on payment of a licence fee to be recommended by Trai and approved by the government.

An acceptance of such a recommendation (unified licence) and announcement of a policy thereof by the government could also provide succor to the concerned parties from numerous litigations the sector is confronted with between operators, government and licence holders.

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