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SC verdict won’t affect users: TRAI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court order cancelling 122 licences, issued during the tenure of then communications minister A. Raja, will not have much of an impact on consumers as over 90 percent of the market is dominated by established operators, chairman of the sector’s watchdog said Thursday.

“The current operators other than the ones whose licenses have been cancelled control more than 90 percent of the market so I don’t think this will make a huge change,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman J.S. Sarma told IANS.

“Customers can always go to the operators of their choice (through MNP),” he added.

The Supreme Court has given four months time to the companies whose licenses have been cancelled to cease operations, allowing ample time for an arrangement to shift users to another service provider. Mobile number portability (MNP) is a service which allows customers to switch operators without changing their numbers.

“The only catch is that any user who has been a subscriber of these operators for less than 90 days cannot undertake this measure. We are planning to issue an amendment to enable the subscribers of these operaors actually be able to port port even before the expiry of 90 days,” Sarma said.

To opt for MNP, a customer has to pay a maximum of Rs.19 to the new operator for ‘porting’ the number and remain with the new operator for at least three months. An SMS has to be sent from the existing phone to 1900 to receive a unique code to enable porting.

“Basically, the time period of four months is the time for government to decide to come up with a enhanced market mechanism. After four months as the licenses of the firms are cancelled, their customers will obviously have the choice of opting for another player through MNP,” Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association Of India (COAI) told IANS.

The operators whose licenses are to be cancelled include some circles of Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Uninor, Loop Telecom, Videocon and S Tel.

But the order does not affect companies that were granted licenses before 2008 and also 3G services for which licenses were auctioned will also not be interrupted.
The apex court, while cancelling the licences, said the entire allocation proccess was done in an arbitrary manner. It slapped a cost of Rs.5 crore each on Unitech, Swan Telecom and Tata Teleservices and said half of that will go to the court’s legal aid services and the remaining to defence services.

Varying costs have been imposed on other companies also.

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