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TRAI to hold OHD on Virtual Network Operators on 31 Jan

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will hold an open-house discussion on ‘Delinking of the licence for networks from delivery of services by way of Virtual Network Operators (VNOs)’ in Delhi on 31 January.

The TRAI had released a pre-consultation paper on the same in September last year. VNOs offer services by tying up with existing operators without buying spectrum.

In the consultation paper, the regulator had said that the draft National Telecom Policy 2011 issued by DoT envisaged two categories of licences, namely network service operator (NSO) licence and service delivery operator (SDO) licence.

NSOs would be licensed to set up and maintain converged networks capable of delivering various types of services such as voice, data, video, broadcast, IPTV and VAS in a non-exclusive and non-discriminatory manner, whereas SDOs would be licensed to deliver tele services, internet/broadband, broadcast services, IPTV, VAS and content delivery services without having to set up the networks.

VNOs are SDO licensees who do not own the underlying network(s) but rely on the network and support of the infrastructure providers, telecommunications operators (who own towers, radio access networks, spectrum, etc.) for providing telecom services to end users/customers. As these operators do not have their own networks, they are termed ‘virtual network operators’.

VNOs can provide any telecom service being provided by the network providers’, viz. tele services (voice, data, and video), internet/broadband, IPTV, value-added services, content delivery services, etc. The most popular among the VNOs are mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

In the proposed licensing framework based on the VNO model, one issue could be whether the existing TSPs will have to obtain an NSO licence or both NSO and SDO licences on migration to the new licensing regime.

A related issue for deliberation would be the necessity of changing the licensing regime at such a short interval since UL was introduced, TRAI had said in the consultation paper.

Presently, there are seven to 13 licensees in various service areas. The Department of Telecom (DoT) had sought TRAI’s recommendations for delinking licences for networks from delivery of services by way of VNOs including associated issues of definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) under the Unified Licensing (UL) regime.