New Delhi: The telecom regulator has suggested the imposition of a penalty of 10,000 on telecom operators every time they provide false information regarding a mobile number porting request and for each wrongful rejection of a porting request.

Switching to another mobile phone operator is set to become a quicker process and operators will have fewer discretionary powers to scuttle a porting request, according to the Draft Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability Regulations, 2018, made public on Tuesday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). Several small telcos, including Reliance Communications and Aircel, have recently shut wireless operations, posing problems for many subscribers.

The consultation paper floated by the regulator on 6 April said that after discontinuation of wireless access services by some operators in some or all telecom circles, the regulator had received many complaints related to porting.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) believes that penalties would be a harsh measure for telcos. “Present operators wish to ensure customers are not inconvenienced during the porting process and hence are working to put the appropriate systems and infrastructure in place to comply. It is our opinion that penalties are extremely blunt instruments to ensure compliance. Rather, a partnered approach with Trai to ensure our mutual goals are met and difficulties ironed out is the preferred approach," said COAI director general Rajan S. Mathews.

Under current norms, a subscriber must stay with one operator for at least 90 days before switching to another. At present, the maximum time that can be taken to facilitate porting is seven working days, except in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and the North-East, where it is 15 working days.

“The existing period for porting a mobile number, seven days in all service areas except Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Assam, where it is 15 days, is too long and a cause of dissatisfaction to the subscribers," Trai said in the draft rules floated on Tuesday.

The time taken to facilitate a porting request to another network in the same telecom circle is set to come down to three days under the new norms and to five days to another network in a different telecom circle. Under current norms , the porting request is processed without evaluation of the eligibility conditions and only after completion of four days is the reason for rejection known to the subscriber. However, under the new norms, the unique porting code would be generated only for the mobile numbers that meet the eligibility criteria set by the regulator.

“In the revised process, the total time for porting shall be reduced drastically for all subscribers, except for the corporate mobile numbers and inter-licence service area porting," Trai said.

Moreover, a subscriber will have to consume his unspent balance before deciding to port his prepaid mobile number, the draft rules state. Under present market conditions, the requirement to keep prepaid balance in the core account for the subscribers has come down given the abundant tariff plans offering free calls and certain GB data per day.