No preferential treatment for state operators says TDSAT

2 Apr 2009

India’s Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that it cannot differentiate the manner in which it allots 2G spectrum for state-owned operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL). The tribunal said, ‘We hold that allocation of additional spectrum to BSNL and MTNL… is a discrimination against the private GSM operators. We accordingly direct the government to withdraw such spectrum that is beyond the criteria laid down by the DoT in its order dated 17 January 2008.’ The issue stems from a new subscriber-linked criteria announced by the regulator in January 2008; the ruling ordered that both GSM and CDMA operators must increase their subscriber base between twofold and six fold, depending on the circle, in order to be allocated additional spectrum. However, immediately prior to implementing the new legislation the DoT granted both BSNL and MTNL extra frequencies based on earlier regulations dating back to March 2006. Private operators subsequently complained about the granting of the spectrum, as neither BSNL nor MTNL had the required user base to be eligible for the spectrum.