“The number of test subscribers that can be enrolled by a licensee in licensed service area (LSA or telecom circle) shall be limited to 5 per cent of its installed network capacity for that LSA,” the department said in its order.
The order has come in to effect from October 9.
The telecom operator will need to submit details of network capacity to the Department of Telecom (DoT) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India at least 15 days before commencing enrolment of test subscribers.
The guidelines come following issue of continuous enrolment of test subscribers when Reliance Jio started its network test. Rivals of Jio approached the DoT and the telecom regulator to act against the practice, alleging that Jio is on-boarding customers by masquerading them as test subscribers.
Mukesh Ambani led Jio started testing of 4G network with its employees first in late 2015 and gradually opened it for all customers without announcing final date for commercial launch of its 4G service. The company had enrolled around 15 lakh customers before commercially starting its service on September 5, 2016.
The DoT order restricts network test to 90 days and on case-to-case basis the test phase can extended to 180 days.
“There shall be limit of 90 days on the test phase involving test subscribers. However, if the TSP fails to conclude network testing due to valid reasons, it may make representations to DoT seeking additional time for network testing giving detailed justification…the total time period for network testing provided to the TSP shall not exceed 180 days,” the order said.
During the test phase, the subscriber on the network will not be able to avail mobile number portability service.
The order bars telecom operator testing network from charging any fee from subscribers and the company will also need to share likely date of commercial launch of service before starting the process, according to the order.