Cellcos ordered to inform customers of imminent closures

18 Dec 2012

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has instructed cellcos that have had their licences revoked by the Supreme Court to inform their subscribers of imminent closures in relevant service areas within the next ten days, the Indian Express writes. Providers hit by the apex court’s decision in February have been given permission to continue operating until 18 January 2013 but from that date must cease offering services in areas that they did not win fresh spectrum in the reauction last month. Of the ten quashed licensees, Uninor (which will continue as Telewings), Idea Cellular and Videocon are the only three to have won concessions to remain in the market whilst several, such as Etisalat DB and STel, have already closed down.

In light of the TRAI order, Uninor/Telewings has issued a public notice to customers in West Bengal and Kolkata to exhaust their balance and port to another provider by the 18 January deadline and has immediately ceased the sale of new SIMs and pre-paid vouchers in those circles. Meanwhile, Sistem Shyam TeleServices (SSTL) is facing a nationwide shut down of operations, having refused to participate in the November spectrum auction, focusing its efforts on appealing the decision of the Supreme Court instead. The future closure of SSTL has strained ties between the Indian government and the Russian Federation, which is astakeholder in SSTL’s parent Sistema Group. If left unresolved by that date, the matter is expected to dominate discussions at the Indo-Russian summit on 24 December.