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Telecom EGoM to meet on Tuesday

The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on telecom, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

EGoM is expected to discuss the issue of one-time spectrum fee along with final recommendations on minimum price for airwaves that are to be auctioned following the Supreme Court's cancelling of 122 licences in the 2G spectrum allocation case, according to sources.

‘EGoM meeting is scheduled for Tuesday,’ official sources told PTI.

The Union Cabinet on July 3 had referred matter of one- time spectrum fee to EGoM to get its view.

Under one-time spectrum fee, the Telecom Ministry has proposed to charge for spectrum held by operators other than those whose licence were not cancelled.

The apex court in February cancelled 122 telecom licences belonging to eight service providers including all permits of Uninor, Loop Telecom, Etisalat DB, Videocon, STel, 21 licences of Sistema Shyam, 9 of Idea Cellular and 3 licences of Tata Teleservices.

EGoM has been assigned with task to take decision related to spectrum auction. It has been dealing with contentious issue of spectrum pricing as it has to strike balance between revenue to the government and business sustainability in the telecom sector. Industry has been demanding around 80 per cent reduction in the minimum price of Rs 3,622 crore recommended by sectoral regulator TRAI as they felt the new rates would lead to up to 100 per cent hike in mobile telephone charges.

This base price translated to over Rs 18,000 crore for a pan-India spectrum for new companies.

In its last meeting on July 20, EGoM decided to recommend issue of minimum price of airwaves, spectrum usage charge (an annual fee) and staggered payment option to the Cabinet for final decision.


TDSAT STAYS TRAI DIRECTION ON MNP FOR CANCELLED LICENSES

In a relief to Sistema Shyam Tele Services and Unitech Wirelss, telecom tribunal TDSAT has stayed the direction of TRAI removing 90-day processing period for mobile number portability (MNP) for customers of those operators whose licences have been cancelled by the Supreme Court.

A TDSAT bench said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) can't discriminate between the operators whose licences have been cancelled and those who are operating.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal further said TRAI can't take rights of Uninor and MTS (brand under which Sistema Shyam operates) to compete with their rivals till their licenses are valid.

TDSAT's order came on petitions filed by SSTL and Unitech Wireless, saying that removing the mandatory 90-day processing time for MNP for those whose licences have been cancelled will open them poaching.

TDSAT said that MTS and Uninor would suffer ‘irreparable injury which cannot be compensated in money terms’ if they take part in the proposed auction of 2G Spectrum and become successful bidders.

‘... in the meanwhile, shall (MTS and Uninor) lose a large number of customers,’ said the TDSAT. ‘The respondent (TRAI), in our opinion, has created a dichotomy itself. It was not expected to take two different stands,’ said the tribunal.

It further observed, ‘The right of the Petitioners (MTS and Uninor), therefore, to compete with the existing licensees has been taken away by reason of the impugned Regulations,’ the TDSAT said.

It further said TRAI itself stated that if licences of SSTL and Uninor were to be kept alive, they must be held to be holders of the licences till 7 September 2012 and would have all rights and obligations flowing therefrom.
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