The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Do-or-die move by cell firms to scuttle unified licence regime

New Delhi, Oct. 28: The cellular operators today moved Supreme Court against the majority judgement of the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that permitted basic operators to offer wireless-in-local-loop mobile (WiLL-M) services.

Legal eagles saw this as a pre-emptive strike to head off any decision by the group of ministers on telecom on the unified licensing regime which was recommended Monday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

At the annual general meeting of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) held till late night on Monday, the cellular players firmed up plans to explore the legal route against the unified licensing regime.

“It is the only alternative left with us if the government decides to offer this migration. It will also have major impact on the foreign direct investment in the telecom business. We sincerely hope that the group of ministers on telecom will examine the impact of implementing the recommendations on the sector,” said a senior COAI executive.

“But we have decided to go to court based on the minority order of the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal that had opposed the basic operators from offering wireless-in-local-loop mobile services,” said T. V. Ramachandran, director general of COAI.

While refusing to comment on the recommendations of Trai on unified licence regime, Ramachandran said, “Our members are examining the recommendations and will comment once we have studied it. But on whatever we have heard and read, we are extremely disappointed with the quality of recommendations of Trai.”

He also indicated that the association was unlikely to take any direct legal option on unified licence based on the recommendations. COAI plans to challenge TDSAT’s ruling, which had allowed WiLL services by basic operators.

“We have given a clearance to our lawyers. We are left with no option and have file an appeal in the Supreme Court against TDSAT’s majority judgement which permitted basic operators to offer WiLL mobile services,” said Ramachandran.

Cellular firms said the industry had tried to adopt a reconciliatory approach and reposed full faith in the government and the regulator and tried in vain for nearly three months to get the TDSAT’s judgement enforced.

“However, till date, no Authority had shown any inclination to limit the service within the SDCA as mandated by the TDSAT. Large WiLL (M) operators were offering full-fledged cellular mobile services with impunity and despite well-intentioned statements by all concerned that the judgement would be enforced, no corrective or punitive action had been taken against these violations,” said Ramachandran.

He said the ABTO’s appeal to Supreme Court against the TDSAT judgement making the COAI respondents in the matter had also left the industry with no option but to take appropriate legal counteraction to protect its stakeholders and consumers.

New team at COAI

The COAI unanimously elected Dilip Modi as its chairman for the next 12 months. Modi took over the chairmanship from Rajeev Chandrasekhar of BPL.

Anil Nayar, corporate director, Bharti Enterprises, was elected vice-chairman. The COAI also elected a new executive council for 2003-04.

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