Monday, October 26, 2009

लेटेस्ट News

'Telcos inflating subscriber base'
24 Oct 2009, 0341 hrs IST, Pradeep Thakur, TNN

NEW DELHI: An internal check conducted by Department of Telecom's (DoT) monitoring cell sometime back had found that most telecom operators were overstating their subscriber base, giving credence to allegations that big players were favoured with additional spectrum for free even when they didn't deserve it.

The revelations come at a time when the CBI has raided the offices of DoT to unearth nexus between its officials and telecom operators in awarding of licences.

Contrary to claims made by 14 telecom operators before the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and TRAI that their net customer base added up to around 38 crore till April 2009, DoT found that their actual subscriber base was not more than 30 crore. However, leading players denied that they had misrepresented facts.

Three big players, Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance, have allegedly overstated subscribers by over a crore each. The government has been awarding additional spectrum solely on subscriber base claimed by these operators. Licences to Swan Telecom and Unitech had been awarded last year for nearly Rs 1,600 crore each.

A start up spectrum of 4.4MHz comes with the licence with a subscriber base of upto 5 lakh. For the allotment of next step of spectrum such as 6.2MHz or 7.2MHz, the boost in subscriber base of an operator has to be by three to five times of the start up figure. For commanding a spectrum of 14.2 MHz, an operator has to have additional 65 lakh to a crore subscribers.

Variations have largely been noticed in the monthly data provided by these opearators to DoT's vigilance and monitoring cell along with other agencies such as Intelligence Bureau, DRI, ED, etc.

The nearly eight crore extra connections is more than the combined user bases of 50% of telecom operators in the country including Spice Telecon, Tata Teleservices, BPL, Shyam Telecom, MTNL and HFCL Infotel. In fact, like the big boys, the smaller players too have variations in their customer base.

Most operators denied the charge. A Bharti Airtel spokesperson said, "As a responsible company, Bharti Airtel complies with all the regulatory guidelines prescribed by the Indian government. The company deploys world-class systems and processes to monitor subscriber information." A Vodafone spokesperson said the company observed highest standards of reporting.

A spokesperson of RCOM said since there were different parameters followed by Trai and DoT, there could be a possibility of variation in numbers. He, however, said the company had sent in its response to the authorities conducting audit. A senior BSNL official said since different circles reported data separately, there could be a possibility of mismatch.

Last updated on 24/10/2009

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