The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended that the number of subscribers that can be enrolled by an operator for network testing should be limited to 5% of its installed network capacity in a circle, with the testing period being fixed for 90 days. The recommendations form part of the regulator’s consultation paper on network testing before launch of commercial services by an operator, which was released on Monday. Trai is of the view that an operator should be allowed to enroll test subscribers in the testing phase to carry out the network testing before commercial launch of its services, adding that “suitable measures” are needed to rule out any misuse.
Accordingly, it recommended, “There should be no restriction on the time limit, if the network testing is conducted using test SIMs (SIMs given to employees and business partners for test purpose) only”. But for enrolling test subscribers, the regulator suggested the number be limited to 5% of an operator’s installed network capacity in a telecom circle, with the operator submitting a detailed capacity calculation of the network to the department of telecom (DoT) and Trai at least 15 days before starting the enrollment. On the time limit of testing, it said, “There should be a limit of 90 days on the test phase involving test subscribers. However, if operator fails to conclude network testing due to valid reasons, it may make a representation to the DoT, seeking additional time for network testing giving detailed justification, which may be decided by the licensor on case to case basis”. At present, the service licence doesn’t provide clear guidelines on testing of network and processes like testing timeline, acquisition of subscribers during the test phase, number of SIM cards etc.
The need for consultation was felt in 2016 as Reliance Jio tested its VoLTE network on a very large scale, enrolling a substantial number of subscribers as test subscribers before the commercial launch. Jio contended that VoLTE is a new technology, hence its throughputs are highly dependent on signal to noise ratio. This was challenged by incumbents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which filed representations through COAI expressing that the practice is unfair. The issue spiralled into a full-blown war between Jio and the incumbents, with the latter complaining about the huge asymmetry in network traffic and expressing their inability to provide points of interconnection to Jio. On mobile number portability requests of test subscribers, Trai recommended the facility should not be extended to network under testing.