Telecom spectrum allocation only after verdict: Court


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the government to await its final ruling before allotting scarce radio frequency spectrum to a section of mobile telecom services providers.

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The high court said any decision on the matter would have to wait for the final outcome of a petition before it filed by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an industry lobby for the GSM mobile phone operators.

The petition by COAI had challenged an earlier ruling by the telecommunications tribunal in December, which said the government can allot radio waves to those offering services under the CDMA technology and had applied for frequencies.

The association said the tribunal gave no reason for its interim order and added that the decision would grossly undermine the interests of its member companies, which include the largest private sector player Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone.

“Anything done by the union government in continuance of an application made by Reliance will be subject to the outcome of this writ petition,” ruled Justice Gita Mittal of the Delhi High Court.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications Ltd and Tata Teleservices are among the players who offer mobile phone services using the CDMA technology.

Justice Mittal also asked the respondents, including the government, the telecom regulator, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices to file their replies to the petition within a week.

She also sought a response from Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd, Shyam Telelink and the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telecom Nigan Ltd within one week and a rejoinder within a week after that.

This apart, the central government was asked to produce the application filed by Reliance Communication in February 2006 for allocation of spectrum.

Under the present case, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal had on Dec 12 refused to stay the process of issuing new licences for offering mobile phone services in the country to those who had applied as on Sep 25.

Prior to that, the government had announced new norms that allowed use of dual technology – CDMA and GSM – by a single operator in the same area of operations and had increased the minimum subscriber base for allocation of extra spectrum.

The COAI challenged the new norms after which the government set up an official panel to review the recommendations made by the Telecom Engineering Centre that oversees the radio frequencies in the country.

Radio frequency is the lifeline of the development and expansion of mobile phone industry in the country, especially in the wake of the country adding some seven to eight million new connections each month.