New Delhi: Telecom operators should be allowed an initial maximum of 90 days to carry out network testing and involve only a small group of users before commercially launching their services, according to detailed recommendations sent by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday to the department of telecommunications.

In its recommendations on “Network Testing before Commercial Launch of Services", made public on Monday, Trai said that if an operator fails to complete network testing in 90 days due to valid reasons, it may request the department for additional time, which may be decided on case-to-case basis.

The regulator’s recommendations, if accepted, will set clear guidelines for a new operator which wants to launch operations in a circle.

Under present regulatory guidelines, all telecom service operators have to ensure certain quality of service norms and hence it is imperative that all applicable systems are tested by the operator before the launch of commercial services.

Since the current licence conditions spelt out by the department of telecommunications do not clearly prescribe any time period for network testing before commercial launch of services, the department had asked the regulator to submit its recommendations on the issue.

There was also criticism from telecom operators that the regulator had failed to address network testing rules after the entry of Reliance Jio in September last year. Operators alleged that Reliance Jio was offering full-fledged services under the garb of test connections.

Accordingly, the regulator floated a consultation paper in May, inviting comments on matters such as the enrolment of customers for testing purposes before a commercial launch and the duration of the testing period.

Trai has now suggested that there should be no restriction on the time limit if the network testing is conducted using test SIMs—that is, SIMs that are given to employees and business partners for test purposes only.

Moreover, the number of test subscribers that can be enrolled by an operator in a licence service area should be limited to 5% of its installed network capacity for that area, Trai said.

Operators must submit the detailed capacity calculations of the network to the telecom department and the regulator at least 15 days before starting enrolment of test subscriber, Trai added.

Operators must also comply with all licensing provisions related to security and privacy, such as ensuring adequate verification of each customer before enrolling them as a subscriber, protection and privacy of communication.

While mobile number portability should not be allowed under the testing phase, the regulator said operators must submit test subscriber-related statistics and their usage, and other information.

Trai has also recommended that the telecom operator inform test subscribers that it is not mandated to adhere to specified levels of quality of service norms, apart from other details such as scope
of services during the test period and likely date of commercial launch.

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