Guest Column: Live and Let Live

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The Public Mobile Radio Trunking Services (PMRTS) have all along been an

underdog of the VAS sector. As a result, it has been unable to rise to its full

potential in India as in the other parts of the world. This is largely due to

continuing apathy from DoT-the last TRAI recommendations dated January 2003

have still not been implemented. It does appear then that the TRAI too has

washed its hands off the issue. Instead, it is content watching the exponential

growth of subscribers of every other service, and DoT's continuing inaction on

the PMRTS industry. After all, a telecom regulator is only supposed to

recommend-implementing or not implementing is the licensor's job.


Meanwhile, the PMRTS operators continue their struggle, shackled by a

stone-age regulatory regime, a completely insensitive licensor and regulator

which is hell bent on administering an after-death life-saving drug, just as it

did with the paging industry. PMRTS, perhaps, is the only service that is still

licensed on a city-wide and not circle-wide basis. Despite no objections from

any quarters, this, along with many other growth enabling regulations, continues

to gather dust in the many labyrinths of DoT. The joke in the PMRTS industry is

that DoT responds every three years, only this time it is trying to create a new

record. The PMRTS industry is permanently in the representation mode, briefing a

new officer virtually every year.

Vipen Malhotra,

president, Mobile Trunked Radio Operator's

Association (MTROA)

Success in the Face of Opposition

Nevertheless, the PMRTS industry has recorded better than the historical

growth of 15% in the subscriber base last financial year. This is due to the

dogged determination of the industry to stay afloat, despite such life

threatening policies/regulations in force. As of March 2006, the total

subscriber base of PMRTS stood at over 30,000 subscribers. Delhi, Mumbai,

Bangalore, and Chennai together accounted for 71.93% of the market share. Delhi,

which includes NCR, led with a share of 10,192 subscribers followed by Bangalore,

Mumbai, and Chennai with a share of 5,300, 4,450, and 3,150 subscribers



Needless to say, with approximately 25 mn subscribers being added to the

cellular network-both GSM and CDMA-in the year 2005 alone, the number of

PMRTS subscribers is not even 0.04% of the 85 mn wireless subscriber landscape


It is truly unfortunate that PMRTS is not being utilized to the optimum when

almost every other nation has recognized its unique niche. Several countries

have enabled it with pragmatic regulation resulting in PMRTS subscribers

constituting 2-5% of the wireless space. In India, however, both the licensor

and the regulator are apparently apprehensive that such a regulation, if

implemented, will gobble up the cellular industry. The fallacy in the logic is

not visible to anyone here, even when such fears have proved to be completely

unfounded in other nations, with 100% PSTN connectivity given to PMRTS

operators. Surprisingly, all this in an age where 3G services are on the anvil

and we talk of a liberalized regime! It is sad that PMRTS must remain plagued by

the poverty of imagination and the blinkered vision of the authorities.


perhaps is the only service that is still licensed on a city-wide and not

circle-wide basis

Superior Technology

It would be pertinent to revisit the role of PMRTS. The unique benefits it

offers in terms of push-to-talk are vital to user groups who need to communicate

in an emergency such as a fire or an accident. It is equally applicable when one

needs to address a large mobile user group at the same time to determine who is

best placed to do a job at that instant. No other technology has been able to

replicate this. In a noisy or dusty ambience, PMRTS is inimitable with its high

voice-level threshold and rugged handsets. No other device permits management by

listening in. Moreover, in a single-site operation, the analog technology is

nearly as spectrum efficient as its digital equivalent.

Woes Unabated

Despite constituting less than 0.04% of cellular subscribers today, PMRTS

operators pay between 8-9% of their revenues as license and spectrum fee to DoT

and WPC (wireless, planning and coordination wing of the Ministry of

Communications). This is in total violation of the spirit of TRAI

recommendations for an ailing industry. The migration to digital, justifiable

only in the metros, remains a distant dream given the unviable regulation.

Further, DoT's insistence on going digital for all new licenses has deprived

the PMRTS operators of several opportunities, such as, starting a new service

even in the upcoming second-tier cities like Chandigarh, where there is no

business case for going digital even in the next 10 years.

It is still not too late. Will DoT and TRAI wake up and take notice and do

what is necessary to take the industry to its realizable potential, which is

over 100 times the size that we see today?