Say five months not enough time

Thomas K. Thomas

"There are a lot of issues that had to be discussed and clarified before we can submit any undertaking for an activity that involves huge amounts of time, money and manpower."

New Delhi, Nov. 5

Cellular operators, with the exception of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, have missed the deadline set by the Government for submitting an affidavit undertaking complete verification of all mobile subscribers within five months.

The Department of Telecom had asked the cellular operators to submit the affidavit by October to make the mobile companies accountable for their subscribers. The move was aimed at strengthening the security of the country since cellular phones were increasingly being used by anti-social elements by giving false identity.

Cellular operators said that they were working out the terms of the affidavit and would soon submit the undertaking to the DoT. "There are a lot of issues that had to be discussed and clarified before we can submit any undertaking for an activity that involves huge amounts of time, money and manpower. The affidavit has to be worded correctly as otherwise an operator can be held liable for not adhering to it. We will soon sign the undertaking and submit it to DoT," said a Delhi based operator.

Operators had earlier expressed unhappiness in undertaking the task of verifying all the mobile users, old and new, as it involved an investment of around Rs 500 crore. Operators had said that it was too much for any company to verify all its subscribers in a short span of five months. There are more than 100 million mobile users currently growing at six million new users a month.

However, with the security agencies insisting that the verification must be mandatory, operators have now decided to undertake the activity on a war footing and are submitting monthly reports to the Government. Mobile operators have also entered into an agreement with the Department of Post to verify the subscriber base at a fixed charge per subscriber.

Meanwhile, industry sources said that the Haryana Government is withdrawing the cases against operators for issuing connections without proper documentation. Haryana authorities were among the first to unearth the irregularity in giving mobile connection without subscriber verification.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 6, 2006)
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