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Spectrum to go under the hammer

February 2, 2014

Supreme Court rejects pleas of Airtel, Vodafone, Loop and Idea to stay the auction

THE SUPREME Court ( SC) in an extraordinary urgent hearing on Sunday rejected the pleas of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Loop and Idea to stay the auction of 2G mobile phone spectrum, which starts on Monday. However, the apex court admitted the appeals of Airtel and Vodafone challenging the January 31 order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal ( TDSAT) The SC Bench, comprising Justices A. R. Dave and S. A. Bobde, said that the appeal is admitted and " hearing expedited" after the Centre opposed the appeals saying any observation from " you ( apex court) can scare away other bidders and can take away the vibrancy of the spectrum auction". Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Abhishekh Singhvi, appearing for Airtel and Vodafone respectively, contended that the their existing licences for spectrum should be extended instead of putting them on auction.

While Rohatgi submitted that the apex court should ask the department of telecommunications ( DoT) not to declare the result of the auction till it decides the appeals, Singhvi contended that since Vodafone is having the licence for the last 20 years, since 1994. it has the right over the spectrum and the licence should be extended for another 10 years.

However, the Bench observed that it does not mean that " you should have a monopoly". Telecom companies made arguments in the apex court identical to those before the tribunal saying they have made huge investment ranging into several crores of rupees and hence have the legitimate expectation for extension.

Any such denial is illegal and unreasonable, the operators said adding that it would also result in discontinuance of service to their subscribers.

TDSAT had rejected their plea saying " the petitioners have failed to establish their right for extension in terms of the relevant provisions in their licenses". The tribunal had held that it was satisfied with the reason based on which DoT had denied extension and had asked the telcom companies to participate in the auction.

" Denial of extension of the licences to the petitioners is based on good reasons as envisaged under clause 4.1 of the UAS ( unified access services) licence and the relevant provision in the CMTS licence and the petitioners can claim no right for extension of their licenses under the aforesaid provisions of their licenses," TDSAT had said in its order.

Eight companies, including Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Jio Infocomm, will slug it out for the precious 2G spectrum in the auction for the prime 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz band. It is a must for Vodafone to get spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata; Airtel in Delhi and Mumbai, and Loop Mobile in Mumbai for continuing their operations as their licences will expire in November.

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Source: Mail Today (India)

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