The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is mulling over options to allow Sistema, Telenor, Videocon and Tata Teleservices to continue providing services after January 18, according to a report by Business Standard. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month asked the four telcos to inform their customers that they would be discontinuing services after January 18.

These mobile companies had their licenses cancelled following the recently-concluded auctions. TRAI gave these telecom companies a 10-day deadline to intimate all their users in the circles where they failed to renew their permits about the order, by way of either a text message or in writing. The companies had in all 26 million customers in those circles where they could not renew their permits. 

Consumers may have to bear the brunt

DoT looking at options to allow telcos to operate after January 18 (Image credit: Getty Images)

The DoT is looking at alternatives for these telcos since it will not be possible to conduct an auction before that date. In fact, companies like Telenor are keen on continuing operations in the Mumbai telecom zone. That being said, it is not clear if the DoT would approach the Supreme Court seeking a license extension till the next auction, which is scheduled for March. The official added that the matter would be decided upon at the ministerial level. 

Among the telcos previously directed to notify the subscribers of service termination, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, which runs the MTS network, notified 16 million of its customers in December last year that it was keen on continuing operations beyond that date. The telco lost 21 licenses recently and is working towards continuing its services in the country. 

A recent report by The Economic Times observed that the directive for telcos to inform their subscribers of service termination will especially affect Sistema, since it is currently seeing a considerable chunk of its user base exit its network while it awaits the Supreme Court's decision on its curative petition against license cancellation.

Quoting a spokesman of Telenor's Indian arm, the report added, “While no decision towards any second auction in Mumbai has been taken, Uninor has communicated to DoT it does not plan to issue service closure notices in Mumbai and we will explore possible recourses to see that operations can continue there till any such auction is conducted, allowing us to participate should we decide to do so.” 

Last year, the Supreme Court revoked all 122 telecom licences issued under the scandal-tainted 2008 sale, which plunged the mobile network market of Asia's third-largest economy into uncertainty. The licenses were allegedly sold at below-market prices, costing the exchequer up to $36 billion in lost revenues. The licences affected by the ruling included all of those held by Unitech Wireless, the Indian joint venture of Norway's Telenor and Unitech.

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