In true sense the turning point of Indian Telecom Industry was November 2003, when ‘Unified’ Access Service Licensing was introduced. Earlier, The BSOs (Basic Service Operators) or the guys who provide you services popularly known as landline, had a different licensing regime as compared to Wireless or Mobile Operators. In the early 2000s Government issued Licenses to BSOs for operating WLL(M)s (Walky, as Tata popularised it).
These WLLs or Wireless in Local Loops, were very handy, cheap at cost and more like traditional phones, hence having their own appeal to a typical different genre. They started giving tough competitions to the GSM, and the GSM operators started facing some losses. The fight entered courtroom, and the Court ordered the Government of India to look into the matter.
In an effort to seek a solution, TRAI issued its “Consultation Paper on Unified Access Services Licensing (UASL)” for basic and cellular services on 16 July 2003. On 27 October 2003, it produced a blueprint for a UASL regime that called for a single licence for BSOs and cellular carriers. On 11 November 2003, the government endorsed this plan. As a result, both BSOs and cellular carriers gained the freedom to offer basic and/or cellular mobile services using any technology. And thus started the telecom revolution in India.
Operators now had a lot of freedom and they started exploring unknown terrains, thus also enabling them to launch pan-India networks. There was lots of dealings involved but that is a past thing now. For those of us interested, check out this link.
If you are wondering, why has this UASL come up again, the answer can be given in two words – Spectrum Allocation. 4 Major players in India have put forward their view on linking/delinking of spectrum, which was one of the aspects discussed in the recently published, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s consultation paper on ‘Overall spectrum management and review of license terms and conditions’. Its Vodafone and Airtel vs Tata and Ambani.
Vodafone and Airtel are of the view that the spectrum should be delinked from UASL, as in case of future new comers, if they get a UAS license, then it would make them eligible for the ‘start-up’ spectrum. Vodafone shares the same view and suggests the TRAI, to delink the spectrum allotment from UASL, thus driving the newcomers to the market, in order to ‘trade’ spectrum.
This is obviously a fair market practice where, a trade mark of capitalist economy.
Reliance and Tata on the other hand point out, that already there is a narrow bandwith available for spectrum, hence giving a UASL license without spectrum, the key source for offering mobile/wireless services does not make any sense. Tata Teleservices in its statement said, ‘Spectrum should not be delinked from the UASL and the licencee should be upfront allocated the contracted amount of spectrum, i.e 2×5 MHz for CDMA technology and 2×6.2 MHz for GSM technology, by paying the cost.’
Another issue that these 2 blocks differ in is auditing. While Tata and Reliance favor auditing, to ensure, proper and efficient utilisation of allocated bandwith, the other two don’t feel a need for auditing. Lets see who gets the upper hand in this fight of the telcos.
On the other hand BSNL has recieved 5 bids for rolling out WiMax-based broadband services on a franchisee model. A notable name is Teracom partnering with Global Hardware Major Cisco, to launch WiMax Broadband service in India. A notable exclusion however was Soma, the existing franchisee of BSNL. Soma had earlier got the contract for rolling out broadband services in three circles. However, the partnership hit rough weather due to technology issues. Other bidders are novice in telecom industry, hence have partnered with global hardware giants in order to make their bid credible.
And to wrap it up MTS enters Wireless Internet market too..
The youngest Operator in India MTS, has now launched its Wireless Internet Service in India, MBlaze. Company, in its bid to increase ARPU, has planned to merge its voice services with data services and planned to launch a 3.1 Mbps connection across select cities in India. Next city that MTS has on its radar is Mumbai and lans to launch both voice and data services by Next month. First quarter targets include Data services across 26 cities pan-India.