TRAI’s order on port out facility needs no interference: Telecom tribunal

NEW DELHI: The telecom tribunal on Thursday ruled that TRAI’s directive that enabled users to port out of their network via SMS request, regardless of the value of their tariff plans “requires no interference”, as it dismissed a petition filed by Vodafone Idea.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), however, asked sector regulator TRAI to provide a “reasonable time” to Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) to implement the impugned directions for all its subscribers, irrespective of the value of the tariff offers or vouchers.
The tribunal, in its order, said the TRAI directive dated December 7, 2021 “requires no interference” and is found to be within the regulator’s powers.
The tribunal was hearing VIL’s appeal against the TRAI directive.
VIL’s argument that by opting for a voucher or pack without SMS facility, the subscriber may choose to surrender right to avail port out facilities, “does not merit consideration”, TDSAT said.
The port out or Mobile Number Portability (MNP) norm, independently creates an obligation upon access providers to facilitate all subscribers to request through SMS and avail the facility of port out on a non-discriminatory basis.
“Such obligation flows from careful reading of the MNP Regulations. TRAI cannot be faulted for issuing directions to enforce such obligations,” the TDSAT order said.
The petition is, therefore, dismissed, it said.
It is pertinent to mention that in December 2021, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or TRAI had directed telecom operators to enable port out SMS facility for all mobile users requiring it, irrespective of value of their tariff offer, vouchers, or plans they opted for.
TRAI’s stern missive on smooth network portability, assumed significance as Reliance Jio had, at that time, written to the regulator complaining that the new tariff structure of VIL allegedly restricts entry-level customers to port out their mobile number from its network.
TRAI had taken a strong note of telecom service companies not providing outgoing SMS facility in certain prepaid vouchers.
TDSAT, in its order on Thursday, said that reading the obligations upon operators under MNP regulations in a restricted manner as pleaded on behalf of appellant would make the norms unworkable for many subscribers.
“On the other hand the interpretation or meaning of the Regulations 4 and 5(1) of MNP regulations as urged by TRAI does not have any substantial effect upon the regime of forbearance in matters of tariff formulation,” TDSAT said.
The tribunal found the stand of the regulator to be “fair and reasonable”.
An e-mail sent to VIL for comments, did not elicit a response.
“It has been conceded on behalf of respondent that Access Service Providers shall be entitled to charge for the SMS messages requesting for a unique porting code and also for communicating such code to the subscriber through SMS message, at the usual rate for SMS which is charged from subscriber having such facility,” the tribunal said in its order.
This issue should be clarified by TRAI through an addendum or independent clarification in the impugned direction so that the facility of even limited SMS for network portability is not free of cost and is made chargeable from the subscribers concerned, when availed for the purpose of portability, the TDSAT order said.

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