India’s telecom regulator TRAI suggests removing the mandatory 90 days lock-in period for porting-out a mobile number to another network, in case a telco is shutting down its services or upgrading its technology (e.g. from CDMA to 4G), in a consultation paper (pdf) titled “Issues related to Closure of Access Services”. It also suggested extending notice period given to subscribers to 60 days from the current 30 days, in case of closure or migration of a cellular network.
The regulator said it received several complaints from subscribers who did not “receive adequate communication from their service provider” before upgradation to a new technology or shutting down of service in an area. This has led to several subscribers losing their mobile numbers permanently. Therefore in the interest of consumers, TRAI made some additional suggestions to ensure that subscribers are not affected in case their service provider is shutting down/upgrading networks. The regulator asks:
- In case a subscriber chooses to remain with the same telco under its newer/upgraded technology, “it needs to be examined whether any unused core talk-time balance should be forwarded along with the remaining validity”.
- If postpaid customers should be allowed to retain their tariff rates, data balance, talk-time rate mentioned in their plan during the migration to new technology.
- Can there be any alternative mechanism that allows the bulk transfer of all the subscribers from one TSP to other; “particularly those subscribers who have not been able to port-out before the closure of services.”
- In case of network upgradation (e.g. RCOM’s recent CDMA to 4G migration), some subscribers may not be willing to change their mobile device or they may not be able to afford a 4G switch. Then from a user’s perspective, “it has the same effect as closure of services,” TRAI said. In this case should the existing Unified Licensing regime be modified to treat such cases as “equal to closure of services,” the regulator asks.
Why TRAI is consulting on these issues
Under current regulation, the Telecommunications Tariff Order (TTO), 1999 mandates that any tariff/plans marketed by a telco “is required to be provided for the duration of the period as presented in the tariff/plan as long as the service provider is permitted to provide telecom services.” TRAI added that even though telecom operators sends out information about network closure/upgradation to customer via SMS, email, Press Releases, some subscribers may not be reached. And in some cases, subscribers could also face failed port-out attempts due to a huge number of requests flooding the server.
“Whatever be the reason, once they fail to migrate to another TSP on or before the due date of closure of service, they lose their right to retain their mobile numbers under present rules… Losing one’s mobile number is a serious issue, which needs to be addressed,” the regulator said in the paper.
Apart from this, TRAI is considering modifying the current UL, UASL, CMTS license (given to telcos) to include a clause relating to “closure or discontinuation of access services” in case:
- Licensee opts not to renew its license in a service area or as a whole
- Licensee failing to re-acquire its spectrum holding in a service area/spectrum band
- Change of Technology deployed by licensee
- Expiry of roaming arrangements leading to closure/disruption of service
- Sale of entire spectrum holding of a telco through spectrum trading
Question asked in the consultation
The regulator has issued a 13-point questionnaire; stakeholders, telcos, and public can submit their comments at email@example.com by January 9th, 2017.
Q.1 Is there a need for modification of the UASL and CMTS licences in line with Clause 30.3(b) of UL, for those licensees who have liberalized their administratively allocated spectrum?
Q.2 Should discontinuation of services being provided through a particular technology, say CDMA, be treated same as discontinuation of any of the service under a Service Authorisation as per Clause 30.3(b) of UL? Please provide details along with justification.
Q.3 What other conditions in these licenses be modified so as to keep pace with the developments? Please justify your answer.
Q.4 Regarding spectrum trading process, the Stakeholders are requested to comment upon the following:
(a) Is there a need to define a time-limit for DoT to take into its records the prior intimation given by TSPs regarding the spectrum trading? Please suggest time-lines for different activities within the Spectrum Trading Process.
(b) Should the advance notice period to subscribers’ be enhanced from 30 days period to say, 60 days, in case of closure of services so that a subscriber has sufficient time to consume his talktime balance? Please provide justification to your response.
(c) If a TSP is selling its entire spectrum in the LSA and intends to discontinue its access services being provided to its subscribers, should the TSP give the 60 days’ advance notice to Licensor, TRAI and its subscribers, only after the spectrum trading is acknowledged by DoT/WPC as suggested in Para 23?
(d) Give any other suggestion to improve the existing Spectrum Trading Process.
Q.5 What mechanism should be put in place to ensure that subscribers are informed about the closure of services/change of access technology transparently and effectively by the TSPs? Should TSPs be directed to follow a specified mode of communication(s) as detailed in para 30 for informing subscribers or what could be other mode of communications?
Q.6 Will it be appropriate that the responsibility of verification of time-period elapsed since the last porting (i.e. 90 days period) be shifted from MNPSP to the Donor Operator so that subscribers’ port-out requests are accepted irrespective of his age on network in case of closure of services?
Q.7 In case a TSP changes the access services technology and asks his subscribers to migrate to newer technology, should the tariff protection, carry-over of unused talk-time balance and benefits be extended to such subscribers upon migration to new technology for the contracted period?
Q.8 How much time period should be given to the subscribers to port-out after closure of commercial services i.e. for how long the system should remain active to facilitate porting? Should the validity of the UPC in such cases coincide with such time period?
Q.9 What other changes should be made in the MNP Regulation to ensure smooth bulk porting-out of the subscribers in the event of closure of access services or change of access technology by any TSP?
Q.10 Will it be appropriate that the change of technology within a licensee (TSP in a given LSA) be removed from the definition of MNP?
Q.11 Is there a need for an alternative mechanism to MNP for bulk transfer of subscribers from one TSP to other TSP(s)? If yes, please give suggestions.
Q.12 Should a TSP be allowed to transfer its subscribers, who have not been able to port-out to other TSPs before closure of service, to another TSP whenever the services being rendered by that TSP are going to be discontinued? What can be associated issues and challenges? Please provide details.
Q.13 If there are any other issues relevant to the subject, stakeholders may submit the same, with proper explanation and justification.