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Supreme Court petition mixed result for cellcos

3 Feb 2014

The Supreme Court has accepted petitions from a trio of cellcos looking to overturn an order from the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which rejected their requests for extensions to their licences. The Economic Times writes that on Friday TDSAT dismissed petitions from Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Loop Mobile and Bharti Airtel seeking to extend their 900MHz concessions for the metro circles of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, which are set to expire in November this year, in a bid to avoid fighting for their spectrum rights at auction. According to the tribunal: ‘The petitioners have failed to establish their right for extension in terms of the relevant provisions in their licences, the matter ends there.’ Shortly after the TDSAT ruling, Idea, Vodafone and Airtel filed a petition with the Supreme Court looking to stay the frequency tender and overturn the tribunal’s order. The apex court accepted the cellcos’ petition regarding their licence extension, but will not delay the spectrum sale. As such, if the trio wish to guarantee the continuation of services in those circles they must participate in the auction – Loop Mobile has not registered to take part in the sale to win back its Mumbai spectrum – although there is the possibility that the Supreme Court may later overturn TDSAT’s decision and order the extension of the operator’s original concessions.

In related news, Russian-backed CDMA provider Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), which operates under the MTS India brand, has confirmed its interest in expanding services nationwide, if the government uses the same methodology for pricing CDMA spectrum as it has for GSM frequencies. The cellco currently operates in just nine circles, but would expand to all 22 if the price for the 800MHz band was right.

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