After DoT cracks whip, operators shed many subscribers

Getting a mobile number may now be as difficult as acquiring a ration card.

Telecom operators have tightened subscriber verification norms following a notification by the department of telecommunications (DoT).

Across telecom service providers, new applications (customer acquisition forms) for prepaid or postpaid connections are being vetted with unprecedented thoroughness and new SIMs issued only after all criteria are complied with.

This follows the DoT cracking the whip on bogus mobile connections on the basis of a Supreme Court directive.

The apex court had sought the constitution of an expert panel to formulate measures to streamline procedures for identifying subscribers before a SIM card is issued.

Under the new DoT guidelines that took effect on November 9, the subscriber has to not just furnish documents for identity and residence proof, but also present himself at the point of sale (PoS) so the dealer can cross-verify the photograph and other original documents of the customer.

The practice of retailers issuing pre-activated SIMs as soon as a subscriber fills in an application form has been abandoned.

“Activation of SIM which was initially in the first stage of customer-operator interface has now been pushed to the final stage,” an industry spokesman said.

The guidelines also make it mandatory for the licensee (telecom service provider) to sign the application form prior to activation of the SIM card certifying the information provided on the form is correct.

Even after a subscriber has fulfilled requirements at the dealer level, a tele-verification will be carried out before a SIM is activated.

The DoT has also envisaged stiff penalties for any lapses on the part of PoS officers while subscribers who secure SIM by submitting fake documents could have the police knocking at the door. Guidelines have also been fixed for issuing SIMs for outstation customers and foreign tourists visiting India, and for short-term mobile connections.

It is not just new connections that are subject to stricter verification; existing subscriber databases are also being cleaned up. Bogus or defunct connections are being deactivated.

The shake-up has led to many operators shedding subscriber numbers by up to 5 per cent of their databases.

“The industry has matured over the years and the focus is not so much on customer acquisition as on quality of service and customer retention. However, it is important that compliance to these norms is uniform across operators,” a BSNL spokesman said.