Uninor shutting its service in Mumbai following a Supreme Court directive grabbed headlines all day yesterday. While the move left several of the service's subscribers high and dry, there seems to be hope now. DoT secretary R Chandrashekhar has assured that they are working out a way, whereby those customers will be able to port out of the network using Mobile Number Portability (MNP). “The customers can certainly make request for porting out their number…that is something we will try and work out,” he was quoted as saying. 

If such a provision is made, then it will enable users to move to a different network and continue availing services normally without disruptions. 

The Supreme Court had directed operators who did not win spectrum in the previous auctions to close down services immediately. The order left Uninor with no option but to down its shutters in the Mumbai circle, even as its operation in six other circles including Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat remained unaffected. This is thanks to the Telenor Group already securing fresh spectrum for the next 20 years in the six circles of Maharashtra (including Goa), Gujarat, UP East, UP West, Bihar (including Jharkhand) and Andhra Pradesh. The company, in its statement said that it will sign roaming agreements with other operators to ensure that all Uninor customers get seamless connectivity when travelling to Mumbai. “All Uninor customers from Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and other circles will continue to be able to use their Uninor phones in Mumbai,” it said.


MNP to the rescue (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Telecom ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are mulling over the possibility of refunding money to subscribers of networks that may shut soon. An official told PTI, “We will examine the issue and look at how interest of consumers can be saved.” A DoT official too affirmed that they were looking at protecting the interest of the consumers. 

The operators who were asked to close down services immediately were not provided temporary licenses, so that services could be closed down in an orderly manner and customers are able to port out. “Uninor is bound by law to comply with the order of the Honourable Supreme Court and will therefore have to close down its mobile network immediately,” the company said in its press release.

The sudden shutting down of operations left Uninor customers in the city without service since the midnight of February 16. “We have pursued every alternative possible to continue our operations in Mumbai until the new auction takes place. Now the Court has ordered an immediate closure of operations and no temporary license too is available to allow a gradual process. Unfortunately, we have no choice now but to follow the Court’s order and close down our network immediately,” said Sigve Brekke, Managing Director of Uninor. “I deeply regret the consequences this has for our customers, employees and business partners – each of whom have been a part of a remarkable fight back last year. We will now make every effort, within the limitations of this Court order, to minimise the negative impact on all affected by this development.”

Only last week, in a rather crucial judgment, the Supreme Court had ruled that telecom companies that failed to win fresh 2G spectrum, and those others who did not participate in the auction, cannot operate henceforth. The court, in its ruling, stated, “The telecom companies which have been unsuccessful in the bidding and those after the cancellation of the licences did not participate in the fresh auction are directed to cease from continuing from operation forthwith and the successful bidders will immediately start in their respective circles.”

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