In Feb 2014, Bharti Airtel announced its plan to acquire to Loop Mobile’s 30 lakh Mumbai subscribers along with its existing infrastructure of 400 cell sites for a sum of Rs. 700 crore. Loop Mobile’s 20 year spectrum lease is about to expire in November this year as it was not able to win it back in the recent auction. Airtel on the other hand, won the Mumbai spectrum in the last round of the auction process. So Airtel, inked this deal with Loop Mobile allowing them to take over its user base of 30 lakh subscribers.
The main aim of this deal is to make the transition from one operator to the other as smooth as possible for existing Loop Mobile users. The users won’t have to use the MNP (Mobile Number Portability) procedure for moving their number to Airtel, and hence making the transition hassle free.
The TRAI doesn’t appear to like this and has raised its concern over shifting subscribers from one operator to the other without their consent. It said that subscribers should be shifted only via the MNP procedure. The telecom regulator also said that it is clear as to who will be held responsible if there is any discrepancy in the user details from the security point of view.
Loop Mobile says that the whole point of the deal was to save subscribers from the MNP process, and those who are willing to move to other operator are free to do so. There is no lock-in.
It also reasoned that similar transition was allowed when Telenor shifted its user base from with a joint venture with Unitech to a new company called Telewings.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) on the other hand, agrees with the deal with says that the license didn’t bar the operator from doing such a deal. It was also mentioned during the last round of the spectrum auction that any player winning the spectrum from other player will be allowed to take over its assets and resources.
TRAI and DoT don’t seem to agree with each other at this point of time, and hence DoT has moved on to asking legal advice for resolving this issue.
Airtel doesn’t want to wait and lose its acquired subscribers and has now started requesting Loop Mobile subscribers for making an MNP request to shift to their network.
I think that this move of TRAI will certainly cost Airtel some of its subscribers. A better option would be ask the Loop Mobile subscribers to verify their documents by visiting the nearest Airtel Store. This will not only save them from MNP but will also keep TRAI happy.