After Reliance Jio’s controversial “testing” phase signed up millions of subscribers to the telco, the Department of Telecommunications, somewhat belatedly, prohibited telcos from running network tests for more than 90 days in 2018. With special clearance though, telcos would be able to extend their network trials to 180 days. On Monday, the DoT published detailed norms that telcos would have to follow run the extended trials. These clarifications are important as they will have a bearing on 5G network testing that may start after spectrum for the fifth generation of mobile networks is allotted.

A telco can apply for the 90 day extension under any one of the following circumstances:

  • New technology: If the telco is testing new technology and needs more time to collect better data, it can apply for an extension.
  • Bad service quality: If the telco’s quality of service (QoS) is not up to the mark, it can apply for an extension to the trial to explore ways of improving service.
  • Network modifications: If the network has been modified in the first 90 days, telcos may apply for an extension.

In any of the three cases, telcos will be required to send the following information to the DoT:

  1. Depending on why the extension was requested, details of the new technology or modification.
  2. Total number of test subscribers served in the licensed service area during the test period. (Under the 2018 rules, which continues to be the case, only 5% of the “installed capacity” can be served under the network testing period.)
  3. Quality of service parameters in a format prescribed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
  4. Features tested and details of customer complaints, along with a report on the latter.
  5. A “write-up” on how the extended testing period will be used by the telco.

As per the DoT latest norms, network testing can still not exceed 180 days under any circumstances.

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