TDSAT backs SSTL on spectrum reconfiguration

7 Mar 2016

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ruled that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) cannot levy a charge on Russian-owned cellco Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) to make its 800MHz spectrum contiguous, as Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) had not been charged for the same reconfiguration of its airwaves, the Economic Times writes. SSTL had sought to reconfigure its 800MHz frequencies into more efficient contiguous blocks, but was informed by the DoT that in order to do so it was required to pay an additional INR35 billion (USD521.4 million). The DoT cited a clause in the March 2015 spectrum auction rules which would require SSTL to pay the difference between the March 2015 and March 2013 auction prices to make its frequencies contiguous.

The TDSAT dismissed this position, however, on the basis that RJIL was permitted to reconfigure its spectrum holdings without having to pay a price differential. ‘We find it difficult to accept the ground advanced by the DoT to deny the petitioner (SSTL) reconfiguration/rearrangement of spectrum blocks. It must be allowed by DoT on exactly the same terms as…was allowed to Reliance Jio Infocomm,’ TDSAT said in its ruling, adding: ‘Reliance Jio was allowed to reconfigure/rearrange its spectrum blocks with Reliance Communications’ (RCOM’s) non-liberalised spectrum, there does not appear any reason why the petitioner should be treated differently.’