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Roaming by WLL, basic operators banned

BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi | October 12, 2003 21:45 IST

The group of ministers on telecom on Sunday said the mobility of wireless in local loop services would be limited to a short-distance charging area as per a ruling of the telecom disputes tribunal.

It also decided to wait for recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on the modalities for migrating to a unified telecom licence.

Speaking to reporters briefly after a meeting of the ministerial group, Communications Minister Arun Shourie: "We have discussed unified licence in great detail. The terms of transiting to the new regime will be decided after Trai submits its recommendations. We have also decided to enforce the TDSAT order with respect to limiting WLL mobility within a short-distance charging area." The group will meet again on October 30 to discuss the unified licence.

While Shourie did not elaborate on how and when the tribunal's order would be implemented, government sources said the decision meant the call forwarding and multiple registration facilities offered by Reliance Infocomm and Tata Teleservices would be banned.

While a ban on call forwarding will be a blow for WLL operators, Reliance and Tata executives maintained they were offering services as per licence conditions and were not offering seamless roaming.

Reliance executives said the company would await further directions from the government before taking any action. Without ruling out the option of taking the government to court to protect the interest of their consumers, the basic operators pointed out that a Telecom Engineering Centre report had, in fact, given basic telecom operators a clean chit on call forwarding.

Cellular operators, which had written a number of letters accusing the department of telecommunications of delaying the implementation of the tribunal order, welcomed the move.

On the issue of levying an entry fee on WLL operators, Shourie said Trai would be asked to work out the modalities even as the distinction between two types of WLL operators--with and without mobility--would be maintained.

In its August 8 order the tribunal had suggested an additional entry fee for WLL mobility services apart from asking the government to restrict their mobility.

Sources said the ministerial group was also divided on the migration path towards a unified licence.

The meeting was attended by all the six members -- Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, Defence Minister George Fernandes, Foreign Minister Yashwant Singh, Law Minister Arun Jaitley and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Trai Chairman Pradip Baijal, DoT Secretary Vinod Vaish and HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh were also present.

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