India- ‘Unified’ Access Service Licensing

Editor’s Note: 

The following information was reported in ITU Trends in Telecommunications Reform – 2004/05:  Licensing in an Era of Convergence (Geneva:  ITU, 2004), and was adapted from the Guidelines For Unified Access (Basic & Cellular) Services Licence dated 11 November 2003, and issued by the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, available on-line at:





In 2001, “basic service operators” (BSOs) in India were permitted to offer “limited-mobility” services over Wireless Local Loop (offerings abbreviated as WLL(M)) using CDMA technology in their coverage areas.  This service innovation proved immensely popular, because prices were generally lower than for GSM cellular mobile services.  BSOs were also able to offer all-India mobility using the CDMA WLL(M) technology, which contributed to the popularity of this service innovation.


As the popularity of WLL(M) services offered by BSOs grew, a dispute emerged involving the BSOs and GSM cellular carriers.  WLL(M) services were increasingly seen as largely substitutable for GSM services.  However, GSM cellular carriers had paid substantial amounts for their licences, and they complained bitterly that when they had made those investments they had not known that they would face competition from WLL(M) providers offering similar services.  India’s dispute over WLL(M) reached its zenith when more than 2 million mobile subscribers were being added each month to the limited mobility CDMA offerings.  The competition between BSOs and the cellular carriers spilled over into litigation.


The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the courts had to find a balance between promoting service penetration and ensuring a level playing field among operators.  In an effort to seek a solution, TRAI issued its “Consultation Paper on Unified Access Services Licensing (UASL)” for basic and cellular services on 16 July 2003.  On 27 October 2003, it produced a blueprint for a UASL regime that called for a single licence for BSOs and cellular carriers.  On 11 November 2003, the government endorsed this plan.  As a result, both BSOs and cellular carriers gained the freedom to offer basic and/or cellular mobile services using any technology.


With the introduction of unified access licensing, existing BSOs and cellular carriers can either continue to operate under the old licensing regime or migrate to the new regime.  Operators migrating to the UASL regime continue to provide wireless services over existing allocated spectrum, with no additional spectrum allotted under the migration process.  No additional entry fees are charged for cellular carriers to migrate to the new UASL licence.  BSOs, however, are required to pay an entry fee for migration.  The BSO entry fee for a particular service area is based on the difference between the entry fee paid by the fourth cellular mobile service provider in that area and the entry fee already paid by the BSO to provide its existing services in that same area.  License fees, service areas, rollout obligations and performance bank guarantees under the UASL regime are identical to those specified in the licence granted to the fourth cellular mobile service provider.






 ITU Case Study:  India’s Unified Licensing Regime

India – Transition to Unified Access Services Licensing Chronology














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