The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Solitary note of discord

New Delhi Aug. 8: Justice D. P. Wadhwa, chairman of the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal, has slammed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for mishandling the approval process for limited mobility services. Wadhwa said Trai had posed the wrong question while dealing with the issue of limited mobility.

“It would be seen that the approach itself was faulty. It posed a wrong question and got a wrong answer. The first and foremost question should have been whether WiLL service is permissible at all. You cannot give a correct answer when you start with a question whether WiLL with mobility should be permitted,” Wadhwa said.

Wadhwa, who gave a dissent note leading to a 2:1 split decision of the TDSAT, said the WiLL-M (wireless in local loop with mobility) service had been touted as a poor man's mobile service. However, an increase in WiLL-M service charges meant that this was a misnomer and the basic objectives behind the creation of the new telecom service had not been realised.

TDSAT chairman said Trai, which was the legal body to recommend a new service, had failed in its duty.

The dissent note appended to the order states, “We regret that we are unable to agree with the report of the Group on Telecom and Information Technology (GoT-IT) inspite of its constitution of profound persons. But for this the department of telecommunications is to be blamed as the relevant record was suppressed from GoT-IT. Even Trai failed in its legal obligations and gave faulty recommendations.”

The dissent order pointed out that the logic behind the decision of the government to allow limited mobility had not been fulfilled. This was because of an increase in tariffs of fixed line operators and a failure to provide village public telephones (VPTs).

Case for unified licence

In the wake of the telecom tribunal’s verdict, communications minister Arun Shourie said “unification of licences will ultimately resolve the issue once and for all.”

“I personally feel that the dispute (cellular vs limited mobility) itself and the different judgments actually strengthen the case for universal licence. All these problems are arising because licences are service specific and technology allows us to do everything,” he said.

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