COAI urges Home Ministry to allow all players to offer data services to prepaid users in J&K

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Pre-paid services in J&K are reviewed every two years and an extension is provided to telecom service providers to continue their services. COAI said no distinction was being made between pre-paid and post-paid customers by some operators at the time of acquiring the same. The operators (read RJio) are allowed to sell their services and pre-paid customers are also being allowed to avail themselves of data services.

“However, when subscribers choose to buy a specific pre-paid service, they are being denied data services, thereby creating disparity and a non-level playing field. This is manifestly discriminatory, based purely on technology considerations,” Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said in the letter.

COAI said that this could be an issue of national security, because due to technological advancements these days, it is also possible to offer voice services over data (like WhatsApp and Skype calls).

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In the letter, Mathews said in terms of national security and traceability of a customer, there should not be any difference between a verified customer, whether pre-paid customer doing repeat recharges for data or a postpaid customer.

“As pre-paid customers of all telecom service providers are already verified as per the instructions from the Department of Telecom (DoT), it is requested that all such verified customers be also allowed to access data services immediately and they should not be discriminated against,” the COAI letter said

The letter said since new customers are acquired through either Aadhaar-based e-KYC, and DoT has been verifying the existing customers, they should be allowed to avail data services.

In any case, with the improved law and order situation in Kashmir valley, these restrictions should be removed, it added.

In July last year, both voice and data services of private telecom service providers were blocked owing to the deterioration in law and order situation in J&K. As the situation began to improve, voice services for post-paid subscribers were allowed from July 26, 2016 for all providers. However, there have been no restrictions on voice services for government-owned BSNL for post-paid and pre-paid services.