Telecom operators get SC reprieve till Feb 4

New Delhi, Jan 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday allowed telecom operators whose licences were cancelled by its Feb 2, 2012 order to continue their services till Feb 4.

A bench of Justice G.S Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan passed the order on a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) application seeking that the existing licence holders be allowed to continue operations till the auction scheduled for March 11, 2013 was completed.

However, the court only extended the time till Feb 4, the next date of the hearing.

The court, while adjourning the hearing till Feb 4, asked the DoT to give the names of the successful bidders in the auction held on Nov 12 and 14, 2012.

it also asked the DoT to indicate the reserve price that it would fix for the auction scheduled to be held in March.

However, the apex court, in the course of hearing, made it clear that all those telecom service providers who had not participated in the auction of the cancelled licences would not be allowed to continue and take advantage of the situation.

"There is no reason that they (telecom operators) should continue in the circles where they did not participate in the bidding process," the court said.

As court said this, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for one of the service providers, told that court that telecom operators did not participate in the auction held in November last year because of high reserve price as it did not make any economic sense.

He told the court that they were keen to continue but not with the existing price and want to know what was the revised price.

The DoT in its affidavit told the apex court that it has decided to hold another round of auction in four service areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka and Rajasthan in 1800 MHz band and in all 21 service areas in 800 MHz band where no bids were received.

The court was told that the government had already fixed a lower reserve price for 1800 MHz in the four circles Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka and Rajasthan and revised reserve price for 800 MHz band was under consideration.

The affidavit said that government has decided to conduct an auction for 900 MHz in three metro service areas where the licences are due for renewal in November 2014. This, the affidavit said was in accordance with the recommendations of TRAI that mandates to conduct such auctions at least 18 months prior to due date of renewal.

Summiting that its efforts were aimed at an optimal realisation of revenue by the utilisation of spectrum for which no bids were received, the DoT said, "it would be in public interest to utilise a scarce resource with effective participation and proper discovery of market price rather than allowing it to remain unutilised due to non participation."

The DoT urged the court that in case it did not favour extending the period of operation by the service providers whose licences have been cancelled by it, then Telecom Department may be permitted to issue them temporary licences with revised terms and conditions including higher price till March 11, 2013, auction was completed.

The price that the telecom companies would be paying in case they opt for temporary licences would be either the reserve price or the auction price whichever is higher. This enhanced price would be effective from Dec 19, 2012.

It said that it would provide subscribers an uninterrupted services.

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