After DoT cracks whip, operators shed many subscribers

Taking a new mobile connection could now be as difficult as getting a ration card, with telecom operators tightening subscriber verification norms following a whip issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

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

The tightening of subscriber verification norms 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 not only has to furnish documents supporting both identity and residence proof, but also has to present himself at the Point of Sale (PoS) so that the dealer can cross-verify the photograph and other original documents.

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 at the first stage of customer-operator interface has now been pushed to the final stage,” an industry spokesman said.

The new rules require an authorised person at the PoS to give an undertaking that he has seen the applicant and matched the photograph submitted along with the application form.

The retailer will also have to sign authenticating the documents submitted by the customer for having verified with original copies of proof of address and identity. The guidelines also make it mandatory for the licensee (telecom service provider) to sign the form prior to activation of the SIM card certifying the information provided on the form is correct.

Now, even after a subscriber has fulfilled requirements at the dealer level, a tele-verification is also carried out before a SIM is made fully functional. The DoT states: “It may be ensured that while making the calls for tele-verification, details may be asked from the subscriber and verified against the details provided in the database. It may also be ensured that unless tele-verified, the subscriber is not able to make any type of call, except to the operator. The incoming call will remain barred before tele-verification.”

The DoT has also envisaged stiff penalties for any lapses on the part of PoS officers while anyone who secures a SIM by submitting fake documents could have the police knocking at the door.

Guidelines have also been fixed for issuing SIMs for foreign tourists visiting India/short term mobile connections and outstation customers who would require a local reference.

While welcoming the new DoT norms on a cleaner subscriber database, an industry spokesman stressed the importance of uniform and sustained compliance across all operators. It is not just new connections that are subject to stricter verification; existing subscriber databases are also being cleaned up and bogus/defunct connections deactivated.

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

According to data with the Cellular Operators Association of India, subscriber growth has been in the negative since July when the database shed 206 lakh users, followed by 51 lakh users in August and another 17 lakh in September.

“The industry has matured over the years and the focus is not so much on customer acquisitions 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.


  • Activation of SIM pushed to final stage in customer-operator interface

  • Tele-verification to be carried out before SIM is made fully functional