TDSAT casts doubt on dual-tech licence of RCom, TTSL

Casting doubts on dual-technology (CDMA and GSM) licences issued to Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, telecom tribunal TDSAT today rejected their petition demanding additional spectrum.

It has however accepted the request for providing additional spectrum to GSM operator Aircel.

RCom and Tata Tele had argued that the Supreme Court's cancellation of 122 licences in February 2012 in the 2G spectrum allocation case did not include their UASL licences, and the approval for use of these licences had been upheld by the tribunal in an earlier case.

However, TDSAT bench, chaired by Justice Aftab Alam, said: "...We have no hesitation in holding that the approval for dual technology granted in their (RCom and TTSL) favour and the consequent amendments in their licences have come under cloud."

It said that validity of use of dual-technology licence and consequent amendments are due for consideration before the Supreme Court in a separate appeal arising from the Tribunal's judgement in the case of 2007.

TDSAT added however that it will be highly unsafe to make the licences of these companies the basis for allocation of additional spectrum which is a scarce natural resource and invaluable national asset.

"We accordingly hold that Reliance and Tata are not entitled to a direction by the tribunal for allocation of any additional spectrum," the judgement said.

RCoM, TTSL, Aircel and Dishnet (now part of Aircel) approached TDSAT seeking allocation of additional GSM spectrum under the terms of licences they procured from government in October 2007.

Under the previous licensing regime of Unified Access Services Licences (UASL), telecom companies were allocated 4.4 Mhz of GSM spectrum to start mobile services. However, based on certain parameters, they could claim additional 1.8 Mhz.

At the present rate fixed by the government, 1 Mhz of pan-India spectrum amounts to Rs 1,765 crore, while under the UASL given earlier - alongwith 4.4 Mhz - had cost telecom companies about Rs 1,658 crore.

TDSAT said however that Aircel and Dishnet are entitled to additional spectrum, saying that the case of Aircel and its subsidiary Dishnet is different from that of RCom and TTSL.

"Aircel and Dishnet are original GSM operators. Reliance and Tata on the other hand were initially basic service operators," the bench observed.

Aircel had sought additional 1.8 MHz spectrum in service areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Rajasthan and 8 other circles.

TDSAT has said whether Aircel will have to pay market rate or covered under entry fees paid by company will remain open to answer till another case of Vodafone against the government of India is decided.