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Cellular players may ring up Atal for bailout

New Delhi, July 23: Private cellular operators are planning to run to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to bail them out of another sticky situation even as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today slammed the door on their demand for the withdrawal of the consultation paper on the controversial issue of a unified licence for the telecom sector.

The cellular operators have been trying to reason with the regulator to withdraw the consultation paper which, they feel, seeks to legitimise the operations of the limited mobility players — which is already under challenge before the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Cellular operators contend that the terms and conditions under which they were given licences in the early nineties are widely different from the one under which WiLL (wireless in local loop) licences were issued.

Even as they contest the raison d’être under which the WiLL licences have been issued, they contend the regulator is trying to place the limited mobility players like Reliance Infocomm and Tata Teleservices on a par with cellular operators by floating the idea of a universal licence.

For almost a week, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has been demanding that consultation paper for unified licence should be withdrawn and wait for the TDSAT ruling on their case against the WiLL players.

Rejecting the cellular operators’ demand for withdrawal of its consultation paper on a unified licensing regime, Trai today said the question of withdrawing the consultation paper does not arise. “It is their right to make a demand, that cannot and should not be stopped,” said Trai chairman Pradip Baijal.

Reacting to the statement by the regulator, a senior executive of a leading cellular service provider said, “We would be forced to approach the government since we do not wish to go in for a litigation that only complicates the issues. It was the decision of the government to have different licences for different services.”

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