India’s Supreme Court has reportedly stayed an order made by the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which upheld increases in the charges for 2G spectrum usage. According to India’s Economic Times, the court has, however, directed Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular to deposit 50% of the proposed fee increase with the Supreme Court registry, while the operators have also been asked to provide a bank guarantee for the other 50% liability. Further, the court directed that ‘the managing director of each operator will file an affidavit before the court, that in the event of their civil appeal being dismissed, their amount would be paid to the government.’
The ruling follows an appeal against TDSAT’s decision by the three GSM operators. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in February 2010 the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) unveiled revised spectrum charges for both GSM and CDMA operators, proposing an increase of up to 50%, with the charge rising to between 3% and 8% of revenue. A month later, on the back of complaints over the proposals from a number of cellcos, the TDSAT stepped in and released an interim order halting the levy increase, which was due to come into force on 1 April. Subsequently, in September 2010 the TDSAT then ruled that the DoT had followed proper consultation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), leading operators to challenge the tribunal’s order, claiming that it had ignored the fact that the TRAI’s recommendation was ‘without any effective and timely consultation process’.