Airtel to disconnect users inactive for 60 days

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on November 10, 2011



Move forced due to number shortage, may effect 20 million connections

Bharti Airtel will start disconnecting subscribers who do not use their phones for more than 60 days together.

The company has been forced to do this due to a shortage in phone numbers after the Department of Telecom tightened the allocation criteria. The move is likely to affect about 20 million subscribers across the country. After deactivating inactive subscribers, Airtel will recycle the freed up numbers to new users.

The biggest impact of this move will be on subscribers who had taken lifetime validity pre-paid cards as they are currently required to do a minimum recharge only once in six months.

But now they will have to recharge their connection every two months or face deactivation. It will also impact users who have multiple SIMs as they have been found to use the second and third connections very sparingly.

For example some users keep an extra connection at home to give it to close friends and family who visit them from other countries. Such connections get active only once or twice a year.

According to data available with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, about 12 per cent of Airtel's 180 million subscribers have been found inactive over a 90-day period. Though this is lower than the industry average of 30 per cent inactive subscribers, Bharti Airtel has written to the TRAI informing them of the decision to deactivate unused connections.

Airtel has told the regulator that the new condition would be clearly communicated to all customers at the time of taking a connection through the cover (of the SIM) where this would be printed in English or regional language apart from the same being displayed at the point of sales and Web sites.

“Due to multi SIM behaviour it is seen that a large percentage of the subscribers' base will not get registered on the Visitor Location Register (a system of counting only those subscribers who make calls or send SMS regularly) since these customers do not use their SIMs for long periods of time. However resources are blocked and these numbers cannot be deactivated,” Bharti has explained to TRAI.

The DoT recently decided to give fresh numbers to operators based on the scribers showing on VLR, i.e. active subscribers.

Since number shortage is affecting the entire industry, other operators are also likely to follow suit in which the case the impact could be on as many as 200 million connections.

According to the TRAI, only 70 per cent of the 858 million SIMs in the market are in the VLR category. The current numbering plan was designed to accommodate only 750 million subscribers hence the DoT had brought in the new allocation system.

Published on November 10, 2011

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