There is good news for mobile phone service consumers. They may soon roam anywhere in the country without paying any extra charge. They may also be allowed mobile number portability even if they shift from one state to another under a proposed a new regime under which the entire nation will be treated as one telecom zone, with no circles.
At present, only intra-circle number portability is permitted. These are among the proposed new features under a new telecom policy expected to be approved by the cabinet and announced by December. The policy also aims for tax-friendly infrastructure status to the telecom sector.
The policy draft, unveiled by Communinications Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday, also sets a market-oriented regime for scandal-hit spectrum and provisions for telecom firms to exit.
Roaming customers currently pay one rupee per minute for incoming calls and about R1.5 per minute for outgoing calls, higher than what they pay in their home areas.
For service providers, the draft new telecom policy (NTP 2011) attempts at corruption-proofing spectrum allotment by delinking it from licences.
The draft policy envisages sale of spectrum to operators through market-linked processes, including auctions. Start-up spectrum is currently issued to operators on a first-come-first-served basis at Rs 1,650 crore for pan-India spectrum. Both the low price and the manner of allocation are at the heart of the 2G spectrum scandal.
This price was determined in an auction in 2001. In 2003, the government gave licences on the basis of this price. The then IT ministers Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja issued licences at this price in 2007 and 2008.
“We shall enact a Spectrum Act which inter-alia deals with all issues connected with wireless licences and their terms and conditions,” said Sibal.
Telecom operators welcomed the new policy. “Emphasis on affordability of services is welcome step and AUSPI is confident that DoT (Department of Telecommunications) will make available at affordable price optimum quantity of spectrum and rationalise levies to bring them down to those in other countries,” said the Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI).
Bharti Airtel said the new policy, which aims to boost broadband speed, “will help in further expansion of networks.”