The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that no coercive steps would be taken against telecom companies for not complying with the call drop compensation norms till the next date of hearing on 6 January.
Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha made the submission before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath which listed the pleas of cellular operators challenging the call drop regulations for further hearing on 6 January.
The ASG, however, made it clear that the regulations would come into force from 1 January as decided by Trai.
The operators have sought quashing of Trai's 16 October rule that service providers pay subscribers Rs1 per call drop experienced on their network, subject to a cap of three a day.
Besides Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and 21 telecom operators, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance have said that the decision has been taken knowing full well that the laws of physics make it impossible to provide a hundred per cent call drop-free network.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the cellular operators, told the court that the penalty was being levied without considering the infrastructure problems faced by the companies.
He said if the companies did not comply with the regulations from 2 January 2016, then they feared their licences might be cancelled for breach of licence condition.
He said Trai was "playing to the gallery" by bringing out the regulations and was not concerned that the telecom companies have inadequate spectrum, not enough towers and the towers they have are operated at one-tenth their levels to reduce radiation.
All these factors and network congestion lead to call drops, he said.
Salve also said that after an auction, each company is allocated a new set of frequencies and hence, it has to recalibrate its entire network.
He submitted if the penalty is levied, the companies will end up paying around Rs1,000 crore-Rs1,500 crore and not Rs800 crore as Trai was saying.
Opposing grant of any interim order, the ASG told the court that there would be no immediate consequence of the regulations as the telecom companies will have to credit the compensation amount to consumers at the end of the month.
He said that the regulations were notified on October 16 and they were framed after consulting all stakeholders, including the cellular operators, and thus, there was no need for any interim order.
He said the penalty comes out to be less than one per cent of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of these telecom companies.
In their plea, the operators have said the subject matter is already covered by a prior and existing quality of service regulation, 2009 dated 20 March 2009, and hence, this is an occupied field.
They have also said there is no clause dealing with compensation even in the licence.
"On the contrary, as per the licence agreement, the operators are not required to cover the entire service area. The operators are mandated to roll out their network so as to cover 90 per cent service area in metros. .. there is no requirement of mandatory coverage in rural areas," their plea has said.