Telecom operators, including state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, have strongly opposed the move by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to charge a price for allocating new numbers, saying an additional levy is totally unwarranted.
Operators say that they are already paying a significant amount to the government in terms of spectrum and licence fees. Some operators including BSNL have told the regulator that numbering resources is the most basic need for accessing any telecom service.
TRAI's main reason behind suggesting a price on allocating new numbers is that the numbers are not being efficiently used, with the result that there is a host of numbers floating around that are listed as operational, but are actually defunct. The sector regulator feels a price would curb the operators from freely doling out numbers to lure more customers. It has sought opinions on the methods of pricing.
The existing national numbering plan was formulated for a projected 450 million mobile and 300 million basic subscribers by 2012. But the unanticipated boom in mobile telephony has resulted in the number of subscribers soaring to over half a billion.
The country's largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel said operators are already paying 30 per cent of their gross revenues towards levies and duties despite a major fall in tariffs and ARPU (average revenue per user). So proposing another levy would be completely unwarranted for the industry.
''New block of numbers are allotted only after demonstrating 60 and 80 per cent utilisation stringently for mobile and fixed lines respectively,'' said Bharti added.