Kerala Model: Telcos want mobile top-up stores to open

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Published: April 10, 2020 3:40:51 AM

“Our member operators are discussing the issue and once a consensus is reached, we will approach the DoT,” Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India, told Financial Express.

The Trai, therefore, has again directed the telcos to extend the validity period for all subscribers.The Trai, therefore, has again directed the telcos to extend the validity period for all subscribers.

Following the Kerala government’s order allowing retailers dealing with mobile recharge, repair and computer repairs to keep their outlets open every Sunday between 10 am to 5 pm, the telecom operators are contemplating to write to the department of telecommunications as well as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to advise all state governments to do the same.

“Our member operators are discussing the issue and once a consensus is reached, we will approach the DoT,” Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India, told Financial Express.

The issue has attracted attention as a large number of pre-paid 2G subscribers as well as a section of non-tech savvy 4G users are not able to recharge their phones due to lockdown. Though operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and others have extended the validity of the talk-time till April 17, it is only applicable to the bottom of the pyramid subscribers and still leaves a large chunk out of the net.

The Trai, therefore, has again directed the telcos to extend the validity period for all subscribers.

The Kerala government on April 8 issued an order allowing functioning of shops that sell, repair, and service mobile phones, computers, accessories as well as mobile phone recharge centres once a week on Sundays. The stores have to comply with certain conditions like deployment of bare minimum staff, wearing of masks by staff and making hand sanitisers available in the shops.

According to COAI, the telecom operators are deliberating upon various options that can be presented to DoT like allowing functioning of certain offline stores (like company-owned flagship stores) during the lockdown. The association feels that some sort of relief is required as the lockdown may be further extended.
“We can’t subsidise or give freebies to all the customers… those who can pay should pay,” Mathews said.

The operators feel that for 60% of customers, the lockdown is not an issue and for the rest 40%, they have already provided relief. But the industry feels that some sort of offline channels should be opened up as issuance of new connections has stopped and the DoT is yet to give approval to their proposal of allowing self KYC or digital KYC.

As per operators, “there is an urgent need to facilitate customers for obtaining new mobile connections through a self-KYC (know your customer) process which can be performed by an end-to-end online digital process by a customer himself/herself”.

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