Intra-circle roaming talks with telecom firms to avoid call drops: BSNL chief

Last Updated : 09 August 2015, 09:35 IST
Last Updated : 09 August 2015, 09:35 IST

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In a bid to address the annoying problem of call drops and optimise usage of scarce spectrum, the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has started talks with five telecom firms for intra-circle roaming, its chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava has said.

Shrivastava, however, said nothing concrete had been planned thus far on the issue of sharing and trading of airwaves, also called spectrum, since the government's norms on this subject were still awaited.

"Regarding intra-circle roaming, we are in touch with five private operators -- Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone India, Reliance Communications and Uninor. While some of them approached us, we approached the others," the chairman told IANS in an interview at his office.

"Some tests are going on with all the five companies. After this, we will have to enter into some mutual agreement with them. Within a month or two, we should be in a position to get into some kind of agreement," he added.

Intra-circle roaming pacts help companies optimise on their allotted radio frequency spectrum by sharing this scarce resource within a telecom circle -- which in the case of India is generally co-terminus with a state, as also some key cities.

For example, while travelling within a circle, the subscriber of one operator can hook on to the network of another service provider depending on whose signal is stonger in that area. This also helps in better network and infrastructure planning among the telecom operators.

Shrivastava said the main beneficiary of such pacts will be the customers. "With intra-circle roaming agreements, since spectrum is shared, the service quality improves. In addition, it lowers infrastructure costs also. The network management is better. In the end, all this benefits the customer," he added.

During the interview, the BSNL chairman also sought to allay apprehensions that the state-run company -- which has the best coverage when it comes to some remote areas of the country -- was seeking such a pact with just a single company.

Responding to a letter from the Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) to communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as also to the BSNL chief, Shrivastava said the worries were misplaced as no private operator was being favoured.

"We are made to understand that a commercial offer for ICR (intra-circle roaming) is being made to a particular operator and an agreement may be imminent," the letter said.

"We request that our member operators should be given equal opportunity to participate and enter into such arrangements with BSNL to conform to the 'equality principle' contained in Article 14 of the Constitution of India and also to meet the doctrine of 'level playing field'."

A similar concern was expressed over spectrum trading and sharing. Shrivastava said his response will come through the company's administrative ministry. But at the same time, he denied any move towards exclusive pact with a single operator. "Regarding spectrum trading and sharing, the matter is too far fetched," he said.

"There are no guidelines on spectrum sharing and trading in India. The question does not arise."

BSNL bid for spectrum for 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA) services, while for others, the company got airwaves through non-competitive way. These are in 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 800 MHz range.

Speaking to IANS, COAI director general Rajan S. Mathews said the association was yet to receive a response on their concerns from the Department of Telecom. "BSNL has significant under-utilised spectrum. We heard they were planning intra-circle roaming pact with some operators," he said. "We just wanted the process to be transparent. Their offer should be open to all our members."

Published 09 August 2015, 09:33 IST

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