Mobile Operators Could Charge ‘Safe Custody’ Charges for Inactive Prepaid Connections to Keep Numbers Alive

By January 1st, 2013 AT 12:34 PM

All current 10 digit mobile phone number series in India are rapidly being used up and coming closer to capacity, to handle this  “serious problem” India’s mobile phone service operators have suggested to the TRAI that prepaid subscribers should be charged a number fee (same as safe custody service of Landline service) if they want to keep their connections inactive for more than 2 months.

 'Safe Custody' Charges for Inactive Prepaid Connections

India’s largest mobile service provider Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular Reliance Communications, Tata Docomo and BSNL said this in response to the TRAI’s consultation paper on deactivation of  inactive prepaid mobile SIM cards /connections.

All private operators proposed to an annual fee of Rs.300 to Rs.600 as ‘Safe Custody’ facility for prepaid customers to retain their mobile number even after long continuous periods of non-usage.

According to TRAI, about 200 million prepaid connections in the India are inactive, of which around 55 million have remained unused for more than 6 months. Many customers get used as spare connections, a large chunk remains inactive as we can see the VLR data from telecos, which seems to be a concern of TRAI, and something which they will be looking at during this problem.

Airtel said that  prepaid customers could be allowed to use a recharge voucher (same as Airtel’s existing Number Locker Service) for activating the service. Airtel prepaid subscribers could end up paying 150 for six months, or Rs.300 a year, to prevent their numbers from being deactivated.

By paying  Rs.50 per month, any mobile subscriber should be able to retain their mobile connections even after long continuous periods of non-usage, BSNL told TRAI.

Tata Docomo (Tata Teleservices) said said the cost of acquiring a subscriber and maintenance was substantial. Therefore, the subscriber should be given a chance to become active by paying a monthly retention charge. However, telcos must be allowed to decide the monthly charge and terms. On average, a mobile phone company spends about 100-150 on maintenance of every inactive SIM.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) suggested that a safe custody process should be provided to the customer wherein any customer desirous of retaining his number for a longer period which is getting into a zero usage cycle can do so by paying charges for the same and reactivate his / her number at the later date of his choice.

All service provider also suggest that an outgoing voice call, outgoing SMS, VAS usage, Data usage or activation of a voucher should be considered in the scope of activity with regard to the criteria for deactivation of SIM’s upon non-usage.

After recent massive disconnections of inactive prepaid mobile conection by all major operators, India’s Telecom Watchdog TRAI had sought the mobile service operators views on defining inactive mobile users and the period after which the numbers should be canceled, among other things.

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