Privately owned Indian telcos have launched a legal challenge in the Supreme Court over a decision by the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) related to carrier charges, the Economic Times reports. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI), the two trade bodies representing GSM and CDMA players respectively, have filed petitions against TDSAT’s May 2010 ruling that operators should pay state-owned operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) carrier charges based on distance, rather than the uniform rate of INR0.20 (USD0.004) per minute set down by a previous Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) direction.
In addition, according to the two industry bodies, the TDSAT has also set aside two letters written by the TRAI back in May 2006 to BSNL, which ‘wrongly allowed BSNL to levy distance-based carriage charges on the appellant instead of a uniform carriage charge of INR0.20 per minute in case of intra-circle.’ The COAI and AUSPI have claimed that ‘in violation of the said interconnect user charge (IUC) Regulation, BSNL was levying a distance-based carriage charge of INR0.65, INR0.90 and INR1.10 for distance slabs of 50km to 200km, 200km to 500km and above 500km respectively.’ Further, it has been contended that TDSAT has incorrectly treated intra-circle calls as inter-circle calls (i.e. long distance calls between two circles), with the petitions noting: ‘The TDSAT wrongly applied rates applicable for inter-circle calls, though it is not applicable. In the case of Cellular Mobile Service, the whole circle is one, the same service area/circle. All calls within the circle are local calls, and tariffs have to be fixed accordingly.’
Having received the petition the court directed the complaining operators to file statements regarding their respective liabilities against BSNL related to carriage charges between November 2005 and March 2009 within three weeks. Legal representatives for BSNL meanwhile confirmed that the operator will not take any action against the petitioners until the next hearing date.