TRAI brings paper on delinking of network license from MVNO service delivery

TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on Wednesday announced a pre-consultation paper delinking of license for networks from delivery of services by way of virtual network operators (MVNOs).

MVNO policy, which has been in dust bin for years, is coming back to the regulatory heads of telecom operators.

The telecom regulator shared a number of issues that would come up for deliberations.

TRAI wants to discuss whether delinking the network from service delivery will have any effect on the working of TSPs.

In the proposed licensing framework, based on the MVNO model, one issue could be whether the existing TSPs, will have to obtain an NSO license or both NSO & SDO licenses on migration to the new licensing regime.

Another issue for deliberation will be about the necessity of changing the licensing regime, at such a short interval since UL was introduced. Unified licensing was introduced a year ago.

TRAI said another issue for debate could be about the need for introduction of more competition in the form of MVNOs.

Apart from access services, for other services like V-SAT, PMRTS / CMRTS, GMPCS, it needs to be debated whether any business case / revenue potential exists for a standalone Virtual Operator for these services.

Indian TSPs have infrastructure, including spectrum, which is just about sufficient to cater to their own requirements. Would they really be able to spare their infrastructure for new SDOs, said TRAI in the consultation paper.

In the proposed licensing framework, NSOs will have to meet roll out obligations to cover wider geographical areas while the same will not be the case for SDOs as these will be virtual operators. The purpose of rollout obligations is to ensure that not only is there geographic coverage of the network but also that spectrum is optimally utilized.


In the proposed licensing regime, a situation could arise where the network is rolled out by NSOs but the spectrum is not being utilized optimally by SDOs. As SDOs will provide telecom services utilising the network created by NSOs, there could be a chance that such a regime may attract some SDO licensees who may turn out to be fly-by-night operators.

“What will be the model of agreement between the two types of licensees? Will it be left to the market or will it be regulated like mandating NSOs to provide services to SDO licensees and mandating charges etc.?,” said TRAI.

It is possible that a SDO licensee may use the network of more than one NSO Licensee and similarly, one NSO Licensee may cater to more than one SDO licensee. This will result in utilisation of infrastructures (including spectrum) by the SDOs from many licensees. The associated issues related to sharing of multiple infrastructure need to be deliberated.

In the present framework, spectrum usage charges for a licensee have been defined slab wise.

In the NSO/SDO scenario, how would spectrum usage charges be determined? Also, who will pay the spectrum usage charges? Allotment for the numbering resources: As there may be many SDO licensees, there will be issues regarding allotment of numbering resources and charges, if any. Proper utilisation of numbering resources will have to be ensured.

Instead of introduction of MVNOs in all areas of Voice, data and Videos, should MVNOs be allowed to function under the present UL framework?

Today there is no licensing regime for application providers and Over-The-Top (OTT) operators. With the introduction of the proposed model, would those entities need to take a license for providing these services?

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