Telecom companies have switched off one in three pre-paid mobile connections they have verified so far under new security regulations. If this trend continues, it could punch a big hole in India’s targeted 200 million mobile subscriptions by 2007.
Figures submitted by the Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India to the department of telecommunications (DoT) show that till September 8 the companies had de-activated 4.8 million of their 13.5 million pre-paid mobile connections after finding them based on false identities.
Since pre-paid subscribers constitute up to 90 per cent of all mobile users, this could be a big drag on a subscriber base that is growing by 5-6 million a month.
Bharti Airtel has struck 2.8 million of its 6 million subscribers off its rolls; Reliance Communications 1.04 million of 2.3 million and Hutchison-Essar 681,000 of 1.84 million.
Asked about these numbers, the Bharti spokesperson said, We have been committed to the verification.???
The Reliance Communications spokesperson was unavailable for comment. A Hutchison-Essar spokesperson said, As a company, we are committed to meeting regulatory requirements to the best of our abilities.???
In the first phase of the verification drive, telecom companies have checked up on 18 per cent of their pre-paid subscriber base of 72 million.
The DoT has directed telecom companies to run a check on their user bases till May 2006. For subscribers signing up after that date, verification is mandatory.
The issue came to a head when the Haryana police discovered a customer had taken multiple connections and was using them for criminal activities.
The DoT and security agencies put pressure on telecom companies to check existing and new customers.
The industry is, however, divided. The Tatas are pushing for physical verification of all subscribers. But the Cellular Operators’ Association of India says it will physically verify only one in 10 subscribers and will check the papers of the rest.
It is a Herculean task and there was initial resistance. However, with the industry growing so fast it will not impact the overall numbers,??? said COAI Director-General TV Ramachandran.
The telecom companies are still far behind the DoT schedule of verifying 60 per cent of their pre-paid subscribers by September.
Source: Business Standard