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India: Is definition of active mobile subscription realistic?

My colleague who made the previous post had neglected to look at the cause of the so-called spike in inactive SIMs. The cause is a change in definition, plain and simple.

The market revaluation has been triggered by rule changes in the activity period allowed for prepaid users and the effect of mandatory SIM registration. Previously, users would see their services terminated if they had not recharged their prepaid cards or placed/received a call within a period of 180 days. In 2010, that period was reduced to 90 days and, recently, the TRAI has reportedly reduced the period to just 20 days. The regulator is measuring the number of active subscribers via its visitor location register (VLR), a temporary database of subscribers who have roamed into a particular area. Each base station in the network is served by exactly one VLR; hence a subscriber cannot be present in more than one VLR at a time. VLR data is calculated based on the date of Peak VLR of the particular month and gauged from the switches having a purge time of not more than 72 hours.

For a government official who has no in-depth understanding of how people actually use telecom services, 20 days may seem reasonable. But we differ. Based on our research on multiple SIM use, this seems counter-productive.

To give one case. There are many people at the BOP who work in the city and have family in a rural area. The signal coverage is such that not all SIMs work in the rural area. But the SIM that works in the rural area is not optimal for the city. So the urban-rural dweller has two SIMs, each with its affinity group.

Now what does the arbitrary rule about 20 days do? The user cannot be compelled to go to the village every 20 days, to keep the SIM alive. Why not let these things be decided by people with the best information, which is not the government officials? As second best, we will offer to make a presentation on the Teleuse@BOP 4 results to TRAI and DoT.

The source story.

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