New Delhi: This could eventually mean major relief to Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communications and HFCL. The Department of Telecom (DoT) has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that telecom regulator Trai’s decision to permit the use of dual technology by these companies required no interference as the GSM licences the companies held were different from those cancelled by the verdict in the 2G case.
In effect, this means DoT is saying there is no need to cancel the dual-technology licences held by these companies as part of the February 2012 judgement by the Supreme Court which cancelled 122 other licences. The apex court’s order does not specify the number of licences that have to be quashed.
DoT has stated in its affidavit that there was no reason for it to take back the permit in 2007 that allowed these companies to offer services on both GSM and CDMA platforms.
About the Cellular Operators’ Association of India’s (COAI’s ) application which seeks to quash these licences, DoT said: “Application is totally misconceived and based on a misreading of the judgment dated 02.02.2012. The decision of the answering respondent dated 17.10.2007 granting permission for use of dual technology, which has been impugned in the present appeal, did not fall for consideration in the judgement dated 02.02.2012.”
DoT has also noted that when the licences granted on the basis of the first come-first served policy before 24 September 2007 were not set aside on the ground that the same were not questioned before the court, “no reliance can be placed on the judgement dated 02.02.2012 to cast doubts over a decision taken on 17.10.2007 on a totally different aspect.”
DoT’s affidavit came after the Supreme Court sought a reply on COAI’s plea seeking a direction to the government to take back GSM spectrum allocated to Reliance Communications (RCom), Tata Teleservices, Shyam Group and HFCL in 2007 and redistribute the same through auctions as laid down in its 2 February judgment. COAI has sought to quash DoT’s decision of 18 October 2007 that allowed the four telecom companies to offer services on both GSM and CDMA platforms, saying such a decision was arbitrary and malafide.
The war of words initially began between just two camps — the GSM operators’ lobby COAI and Tata Teleservices. COAI said earlier this year that the 19 permits that were granted to Tata Tele as dual-technology licences be cancelled. But the DoT affidavit obviously talks of all dual-technology permits granted, not just for the Tatas. Reliance Communications’ 14 dual-technology licences and HFCL’s single licence (Punjab) will also get impacted by the apex court’s ruling on the matter.
COAI’s earlier demands on dual-tech spectrum had been rejected by the Delhi High Court and debunked by the telecom tribunal TDSAT. DoT said in its affidavit that the subject and scope of the COAI appeal was different from the 2G verdict as these licences are technology neutral.