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DoT to Allow Niche Operators in Rural Areas of India

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The Department of Telecomm (DoT) of India has asked telecoms regulators to suggest the policy guidelines under which niche operators should be permitted. Niche operators essentially operate in small areas such as a district and offer mobile and broadband services.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has already proposed this new category of operators in its recommendations for promoting rural telephony. However, DoT had so far not been open to allowing niche operators on the grounds that there was enough competition in the market and existing operators were already rolling out services in rural areas. Now DoT is looking for different types of operators in the country, including Mobile Virtual Network Operators. DoT has also asked TRAI to suggest the policy regime for bringing in MVNOs. The TRAI had suggested that niche operators should be permitted to operate in districts where rural teledensity is below 1 per cent. TRAI stated that niche operators would be eligible for subsidies from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund on the same lines as that available to the other access providers.

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