The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The jury’s out to help find telecom truce

New Delhi, Feb. 24: Telecom operators today got the opportunity to continue with their peace talks within the ambit of the working group set up by communications minister Arun Shourie without worrying about legal battles when the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) adjourned hearing on the contentious issue of limited mobility services till March 17.

The three-member TDSAT bench headed by D. P. Wadhwa said the future dates for hearing of the case would be decided on March 17.

The working committee was supposed to submit its report on the telecom tangle on March 1 but has since asked for an extension of the deadline.

“The working group will also get some time to deliberate on the issue. This is important and we had suggested that the case could wait till the group come out with a suggestion,” said Wadhwa.

The working group comprises Vinod Vaish, secretary in the ministry of communication and information technology and Prithipal Singh, chairman cum managing director of Bharat Sanchar Nigam who represent the government; Mukesh Ambani / Prakash Bajpai and S. Ramakrishnan who represent the Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO); and Sunil Bharti Mittal and Rajeev Chandrashekhar representing the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani and S. Ramakrishnan have invited the cellular operators in the working group — Sunil Bharti Mittal and Rajeev Chandrashekhar — for an informal meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday. Sources in the cellular industry said, “We will decide on attending the informal meeting late tonight.”

However, the government representatives — Vinod Vaish and Prithipal Singh — have not been invited. A senior government official said, “When the working group consists of the private and government representatives, the decision has to be unanimous. It is good that the cellular and limited mobile operators are meeting informally outside the working group, but BSNL is also a member of the group and its business concerns will have to be taken into account.”

Cellular operators claim that the crucial difference is the limited mobile phone offered by the service operators has to be authenticated within the short distance charging area (SDCA). To reach outside SDCA, the subscriber of limited mobile phone has to make long distance call.

“The argument that this cannot be restricted as claimed by the limited mobile operators is false. The only way the consumer can break out of the restriction is only if the operator fraudulently and, in breach of the terms of their licences, allow roaming,” claimed the cellular operators in their affidavit submitted to TDSAT.

COAI demand

The COAI has challenged the interconnect user charge in the TDSAT saying the charges need to be revised according to the true cost, adds PTI.

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