High Court issues notices over spectrum allocation


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Thursday issued notices to the union government, the telecom regulator, and telecom operators Reliance Communication and Tata Teleservices on a petition filed by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) against the government’s radio spectrum allocation process.

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The COAI is a representative organisation of telephone operators offering services on the GSM (global system for mobile communications) platform. Reliance and Tata mainly provide mobile phone services on rival CDMA (code division multiple access) platform.

Justice Gita Mittal of the Delhi High Court also sought a response from HFCL, Shyam Telelink, BSNL and MTNL on the issue within one week and a rejoinder within a week after that.

The court, while issuing notices, said, “Anything done by (the) union government in continuance of an application made by Reliance will be subject to the outcome of this writ petition.”

The court also directed the centre to produce the application filed by Reliance Communication in February 2006 for GSM spectrum.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Dec 12 had refused to stay the issuance of new licences to those who had applied as of Sep 25.

The government had on Oct 19 announced new norms that allowed use of dual technology by a single operator in the same circle and enhanced subscriber base for allocation of additional spectrum.

However, the COAI had challenged the norms in TDSAT. After this, the government had also set up an official panel to review the Telecom Engineering Centre’s recommendations of spectrum allocation.

The court had earlier refused to immediately halt the spectrum or airwaves allocation process, as requested by the operators. The process has already been started by the department of telecommunications (DoT).

All the four members of COAI, namely Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Spice, who are parties in the original petition before TDSAT, had then collectively decided to approach the Delhi High Court.

Spectrum or radio frequency is the lifeline of telecom operators for their business development and expansion. India is adding about eight million subscribers a month. The humongous growth has led to a need for additional spectrum.