New Delhi: The Telecom Ministry is planning to take legal opinion on the issue of disruption of mobile services by two Reliance Group companies under the Universal Service Obligation Fund scheme of shared mobile infrastructure.
A source from the Department of Telecom (DoT) said, "...licence clauses have been violated by Reliance Telecom and Reliance Communications ...This matter was also discussed by the telecom committee. However, a report has not yet been received from the committee... Let us (DoT) take legal opinion on this issue."
The companies had already paid a fine of Rs 5.49 crore for shutting down the rural telephone services during 2010-11 in violation of the USOF agreement.
In 2007, a scheme was launched under Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide subsidy support for setting up and managing 7,871 infrastructure sites (telecom towers) in 500 districts in specified rural and remote areas.
Bharti Airtel, BSNL, Aircel, Idea Cellular, Reliance and Vodafone participated in the scheme.
In view of the switch off and subsequent switch on of services, a fin has been imposed for the period of interruption in mobile services as per the provision contained under USOF agreement with these companies.
Apart from the above actions under the USOF agreement with these companies, the DoT had also constituted a high level committee to consider all aspects of the issue and suggest appropriate further action, if necessary, under the Unified Access Service Licence conditions.
As per the agreement no penalty shall be payable in case of interruption of mobile services for a period of up to seven days in a quarter. Penalty shall be payable if there is interruption for more than seven days in a quarter.
However, if there is interruption in services for 45 days or more in a quarter, penalty shall be payable for the whole quarter, the agreement said.
Recently, telecom minister Kapil Sibal had set up a panel to ascertain the reasons for delays in providing mobile services in rural areas under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) scheme.
The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a fund which is raised through a ‘Universal Access Levy’ (UAL), which would be a percentage of the revenue earned by the operators under various licences and it is used boost telecom services in rural/remote areas.