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Door opens for more in telecom

BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi | November 12, 2003 09:08 IST

The department of telecommunications has said it would come up with fresh terms and conditions to introduce new players in the cellular telecom sector under the unified licence.

While announcing the guidelines for unified licensing, it said while the existing operators would migrate to the new regime after paying an entry fee, it was planning to open the sector to more operators.

Telecom Secretary Vinod Vaish said, "All new applications will be in the category of unified access services. We will soon bring out the modalities for new players in this category."

For existing cellular and basic operators, the department has accepted the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in toto. The guidelines come into effect immediately.

While the basic operators said they were happy with the guidelines, the cellular operators accused the department of not addressing the concerns and anomalies raised by them.

The department has also not addressed the issue raised by Bharti Tele-Ventures, which has five basic licences in circles where it provides cellular services.

The decks have, however, been cleared for Reliance Infocomm to convert its limited mobility operations in 17 circles to fully mobile ones. Reliance executives said they would be approaching the government soon.

The company will have to shell out around Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion), including a Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) penalty for violating limited mobility norms, to migrate to the unified licence.

Tata Teleservices will also be able to offer cellular services in six circles after paying around Rs 500 crore.

As per the guidelines, existing operators will have the option to continue under the present licensing regime, or to migrate to the new regime in their existing circles.

For basic operators migrating to the new regime, no additional spectrum will be provided. Moreover, they will have to continue to offer limited mobility services after becoming a full-fledged cellular operator.

Basic operators that do not want to migrate to the new regime will have to pay only the additional fee for limited mobility services.

They will have to restrict their services within the short distance charging area, and will not be permitted to offer call forwarding services or multiple registration.

Since the service areas for unified licence holders will be similar to those of the cellular operators, basic operators in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will be required to hold a separate unified licence for Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, respectively.

Cellular operators in these circles will not be allowed to offer services in the metros after the unification of licences due to lack of spectrum. They will, however, not have to pay an entry fee for migrating to the new regime.

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