COAI seeks to disconnect Tata Teleservices' GSM operations news
20 May 2013

Mobile services operators on the GSM platform are seeking an end to the operations of Tata Teleservices on the ground that its GSM licences and spectrum, awarded in 2008, were cancelled under a Supreme Court order of 2012.

The GSM operators' body, the Cellular Operators Association of India, had sought legal opinion from eminent lawyer lawyer Rohinton F Nariman on this issue. Nariman opined that the COAI can take action against Tata Teleservices.

Following this, COAI is planning to approach the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the "next few days" asking it to cancel 19 licences awarded to Tata Teleservices.

''It is clear that the spectrum allocated to Tata Teleservices was quashed by the Supreme Court. In the view thereof, it is permissible for the querist (COAI) to take all steps that are consequential to cancellation of spectrum,'' Nariman said.

If COAI member operators carry out their action, GSM subscribers of Tata Tele will not be able to make calls to users of any other GSM operator, including Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

In addition, these players can refuse to accept number portability requests or offer other services which they are supposed to extend to other operators under the regulations.

The Supreme Court, in its order on February 2012 had said that all licences issued on or after 10 January 2008, and subsequent allocation of spectrum are declared illegal and are quashed.

The issue is complicated by the fact that Tata Tele got its licences much before 2008, but got GSM spectrum after this. Those supporting the company argue that the apex court's verdict was applicable only to those companies that got both the licence and the spectrum in or after January 2008.

Tata Tele has dismissed the contentions made by COAI. But Nariman, in his legal opinion given to COAI, has pointed out that Tata Tele's GSM permits were part of the decision-making process under the then communications minister A Raja, which was specifically mentioned in the press release issued by the DoT on 10 January 2008.

''The Supreme Court has cancelled all spectrum allocations pursuant to the two press releases dated January 10, 2008, and no exception has been made with respect to Tata Teleservices,'' the legal opinion stated.

"We are planning to write to DoT in the next few days (to cancel Tata Teleservices GSM licences)," COAI director general Rajan Mathews told PTI.

The industry body maintains that a total 141 licences need to be cancelled, including 19 GSM licences of Tata Teleservices, under the apex court order.

Tata Teleservices is present in both the CDMA and GSM space. It shut down its operations in Jammu & Kashmir, the North-East and Assam circles from 18 January as it did not have spectrum to operate in these areas.

The three CDMA licences of TTSL in Jammu & Kashmir, North East and Assam were cancelled by the Supreme Court in its 2012 order.

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COAI seeks to disconnect Tata Teleservices' GSM operations