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Ambani, Mittal give telecom meet a miss

New Delhi, Feb. 17: Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani and Bharti’s Sunil Bharti Mittal failed to show up at the first-ever meeting of the working group to resolve the vexatious issues that have sparked a war of words and a flurry of litigations between cellular operators and limited mobility players.

The meeting had been called to address the three most contentious issues: how restricted will the limited mobility service be, how to create a voluntary level playing field between the different groups of telecom operators, and the need for co-operation and safeguards to protect the future of all telecom players.

The first meeting of the working group, which was set up last week at the behest of communications minister Arun Shourie, failed to develop a framework to move ahead with the telecom revolution, establish confidence amongst the investors and to sort the problems pending before the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and the Supreme Court.

The meeting also failed to arrive at an understanding on the issue of roaming as both sides stuck to their points of view.

Cellular operators maintained that the facility of multiple registrations offered by the limited mobility players was tantamount to roaming. However, the limited mobility operators maintained that since there was no automatic transfer of calls from one short distance charging area (SDCA) to another, it could not be termed as ‘roaming’ which was offered by the cellular operators.

Today’s meeting was attended by Reliance president Shankar Adwal, Tata Teleservices president S. Ramakrishnan who represented the basic telecom operators; BPL chief executive officer Rajeev Chandrashekhar and Hutch CEO Asim Ghosh representing the cellular operators; and Vinod Vaish, secretary in the communications ministry and Bharat Sanchar Nigam’s CMD Prithipal Singh.

Vaish later told newspersons: “The meeting was fruitful and we will meet again on Friday to carry the discussions forward. We discussed all three issues mandated to the working group by the communications minister.”

“We are awaiting a few more details on the issue of roaming. It should be available to the working group in a few days. This will be discussed at the next meeting,” said Vaish.

The working group is scheduled to submit its report by March 1. However, senior officials in the ministry feel that it may not be possible to arrive at a conclusion within the mandated period.

“The issues are complex and, if a solution had to be found within 15 days, we could have had solutions long ago. With both the cellular operators and basic/limited mobile operators in no mood to relent on the issue of roaming, it could well go back to TDSAT,” said a senior official in the communications ministry.

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