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Telecom industry in talks with states, local authorities for opening up recharge outlets

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Telecom industry in talks with states, local authorities for opening up recharge outlets
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New Delhi:  The telecom industry is in discussions with district and local authorities across states for opening up prepaid recharge centres following the recent orders by the Home Ministry, and hopes that these outlets will start opening in a day or so.

The Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) has also written to various states, urging them to issue "requisite instructions in the state/UT to enable 'mobile recharging retailers' to open their outlets for offering telecom services to the public", and also issue passes for movement of select staff who manage these outlets.

"Further, to serve these outlets, passes should be issued to select employees/staff and distributors of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs)," COAI said in similarly worded letters addressed to chief secretaries of states.

COAI Director General Rajan Mathews told PTI that telcos are engaging with local authorities to identify and finalise the list of locations where outlets can be re-opened.

"We are working with local administration and operators to identify locations, because individual geographies have different hotspots and green areas. So it cannot be one-size-fits-all approach.

"State by state, depending on severity of the issue and how much they are ready to open up, our operators are working with them to identify the appropriate locations which can be started. Then of course, this has to get communicated to customers as well," Mathews said.

He added that operators are hoping that recharge outlets would start opening in a day or so since discussions are already underway at state level.

Earlier this week, Union Home Ministry allowed opening of shops selling educational books and electric fans, services of bedside attendants of senior citizens and public utilities, including recharge facilities for prepaid mobile phones, during the ongoing lockdown.

The telecom industry had been pushing for opening up retail recharge points, particularly to help feature phone mobile users to go in for recharges.

India has decided to extend lockdown restrictions till May 3 to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed 681 lives and infected over 21,393 people in the country.

During the first phase of lockdown, telecom operators had announced benefits for low-income prepaid users to help them tide over the ongoing crisis.

Last week, Vodafone Idea announced extension of incoming service for 90 million low-income prepaid customers, using feature phones, till May 3.

Bharti Airtel also said it is extending validity of 30 million low-income prepaid customers till May 3.

Reliance Jio has announced that every Jio user will continue to receive incoming calls. This will not only benefit low-income users but also benefit those who are unable to do a recharge during these challenging times.

Meanwhile, telcos have also activated several channels, including ATMs, post offices, grocery stores and chemist shops, in addition to digital channels, to enable mobile users to recharge.

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