The highest decision-making body in the telecom sector, the Telecom Commission has finally approved the norms for telcos allowing them to conduct network trials before commercially launching the mobile services to the public. However, the test phase for such trials should be just 180 days. The Commission also decided to ask the telecom regulator to prescribe a framework for testing of fixed-line services. "Now these decisions (Trai's recommendations) were accepted, and it was decided that...although Trai had left extensions beyond 90 days to the DoT (Department of Telecom), the Telecom Commission felt there should be an absolute finality to it, so it should be capped at 180 days," Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters at PTI after the meeting of Telecom Commission.
The issue of dos and dont's for network testing had stirred up a storm in the industry after Reliance Jio amassed over 1.5 million users during its test phase that preceded the commercial launch of services in September 2016.
The established operators had, at that time, cried foul and charged the newcomer with offering full-fledged mobile connection loaded with freebies in the guise of a trial launch. The incumbent operators had also demanded that the rules of such trial service be clearly spelt out - and Trai then proceeded to recommend norms that will govern such network testing. The Trai recommendations were issued in December last year.
Noting that the extensions cannot be given in an "arbitrary" manner, Sundararajan said that the Telecom Department would have to "formulate clear guidelines for giving extension beyond 90 days". The Commission also decided that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) should give recommendations prescribing a framework for testing in case fixed lines too.
"So that reference will be going to Trai immediately," she said. In its recommendations, Trai had proposed capping the number of test subscribers to five per cent of installed network capacity for a service area, also called a telecom circle. For this, the "service provider will submit the detailed capacity calculations of the network to Department of Telecom and Trai at least 15 days before commencing enrolment of test subscribers," Trai had said.
Trai had also said that number porting facility should not be extended to network in the test period and that all licensing provisions related to security and privacy will have to be observed even during the period.
In the past, incumbent telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular raise their concerns over Reliance Jio which offered free mobile services to the consumers claiming it as 'Testing.'