Andheri resident Neeraj Khambalkar and friends spent most of Sunday trying to get a cell phone connection, after wireless carrier Uninor abruptly pulled the plug on its services in the Mumbai Circle from Saturday midnight.
Khambalkar and his friends, who had to give up their plans for a Sunday outing, were among the thousands of Mumbaikars trying frantically to secure new mobile connections from other operators.
The shutdown follows a Supreme Court order on Friday that all operators who did not win spectrum in the previous auctions close down services immediately.
According to sources, Uninor has more than 18 lakh cell phone consumers in the Mumbai region.
Although the bulk of these customers are expected to look for new numbers with other carriers, sources with operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Dolphin ( MTNL) said most of the consumers might already have more than one SIM card and hence the demand was not so immediate and high. They, however, expect the affected Uninor customer to slowly switch to other operators over a period of five to 15 days.
“Today a large number of people lined up for new connections. Demand may shoot up over the next four-five days. Our outlets and relationship centres have already geared up for it. We know that initially it will be a stress on our call centres, but since we are well-equipped we will manage to meet the sudden rise in demand. We welcome new consumers,” said a source in one of these companies.
Uninor said in a statement that there was no impact on its operations in six circles, including Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat, since the Telenor group had already secured fresh spectrum for 20 years and the services will continue. According to the company, it could not close down the services in Mumbai in an orderly manner, giving customers enough time to port out, as no temporary licence was available.
“I deeply regret the consequences this has for our customers, employees and business partners—each of whom have been a part of a remarkable fightback last year. We will now make every effort, within the limitations of this court order, to minimize the negative impact on all affected by this development,” said Sigve Brekke, managing director of Uninor.
The company said it will sign roaming agreements with other operators to ensure that all Uninor customers get seamless connectivity when travelling to Mumbai.
Interestingly, Uninor has promised to extend all possible assistance to its employees in Mumbai for finding new employment opportunities. It has also promised to ensure a transparent and comprehensive settlement towards all its distributors and retailers.
“The company will also engage with its business partners to evaluate the possibility of redeploying network infrastructure to other circles such as Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat where Uninor operations are continuing,” according to the statement.