Licence renewal rejection ‘flawed’, Vodafone criticises DoT

2 Apr 2013

UK-backed wireless operator Vodafone India has criticised the government’s rejection of its request to extend its concessions in three circles, claiming that the regulator’s decision was legally unsustainable. The Economic Times quotes the cellco as saying that the ruling suffered from ‘fundamental flaws, contradictions [and] jurisdictional errors.’ Vodafone added that there was no basis for a meaningful discussion with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on the matter as the watchdog had failed to offer any new terms for negotiation. The provider added that the DoT had misrepresented its position – noting that it had not sought the renewal of its licences for free or under the same terms and conditions – and the rejection of its request out of hand demonstrated a ‘predetermined mindset on the matter.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the DoT listed 900MHz spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, including frequencies held by Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Loop Telecom, amongst the airwaves up for sale in the failed auction in March and plans to offer up the spectrum in a future auction. The watchdog rejected requests to negotiate the renewal of licences in those areas, ruling that the cellcos would have to repurchase the concessions via an auction to continue operations. The trio argued that under their existing licences they were entitled to fair and reasonable extension of permissions on mutually agreeable terms. An unnamed source was quoted as reporting the DoT justified its decision on the basis that ‘[in the] clause related to extension of licences, companies should not read ‘may’ as ‘shall’ extend licence. Hence their request to extend licences have not been accepted by DoT.’

Vodafone has accused the government of taking a unilateral decision on the matter, adopting self-contradictory and inconsistent stands on the issue, saying: ‘It is incumbent on the DoT to act reasonably and not on whims and caprice, [to] weigh pros and cons of the matter and take a fair and reasonable decision which is in the interest of all parties…On one hand, you have stated in the letter that spectrum can also be allocated through market related process, but on the other hand stated that unless we participate in the auction and get the bid confirmed, we would not be entitled to the spectrum. You have failed to appreciate that forced participation is anathema to the concept of bilateral agreement.’