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Tuesday, 14 October 2003 00:00
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The telecom tangle has now got another knot, with the basic telephony operators going to the Supreme Court in appeal against the decisions handed down by the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
 
It is clear that the basic operators were waiting to see what view the Group of Ministers (GoM), set up to go into telecom issues, would take.
 
After it became clear that the GoM was going to enforce the limited nature of ‘limited mobility’ (though without either a technical solution to the problem or a time frame), there is now the inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court.
 
Whatever action the government may have been contemplating, it will now have to hold its hand till the legal challenge is dealt with.
 
There has been valid criticism that the government should have moved immediately after the TDSAT orders, especially since another government body (the TEC) had declared that companies like Reliance Infocomm were violating the terms of their WiLL-mobile licence.
 
But even such prompt action would have provoked legal challenge. It is now a foregone conclusion that the mobile operators will also go in appeal, seeking to enforce a complete ban on limited mobility by the basic operators — as TDSAT’s minority judgment had argued.
 
So, after four years of controversy, the issue is back to basics, but before the final court of appeal.
 
Meanwhile, there is the tricky issue of how mobility can be restricted through the use of technology. TDSAT’s majority judgment, which asked for restricting mobility, is unclear on how this is to be done.
 
The cellular industry has been citing the original Trai consultation paper, as well as subsequent clarifications issued by Trai, to show that the only way this can be done is by taking out the Mobile Switching Centres (MSCs) that form part of the WiLL network and replacing them by plain V5.2 switches.
 
TDSAT’s majority judgment, on the other hand, says this restriction can be done through a software solution while still using MSCs, but recognises that there is no such software solution available — indeed, it goes on to suggest a task force of IIT and CSIR experts to figure a way out!
 
In other words, restricting WiLL-mobiles to one telecom circle is being touted without a technical solution in sight (apart from physically removing the MSCs). Presumably, the Supreme Court will factor in this reality as well.
 
Meanwhile, the cellular industry has got PricewaterhouseCoopers to do a study that says the industry needs to be paid Rs 18,400 crore for the loss in profitability from allowing WiLL-mobile firms entry into the mobile telephony market.
 
This is obviously a figure for negotiation, which can happen only by hearing out the cellular industry, not by issuing a fiat.
 
The GoM has got Deepak Parekh to work on the compensation, but he’s merely suggested a reduction in revenue share fees for the cellular industry.
 
Assume, for the sake of argument that the fees are halved — that’s a saving of a minuscule Rs 330 crore (based on last year’s figures).
 
The savings climb in future years, but the cellular boys are unlikely to settle for that. Expect more legal battles.

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 March 2012 09:40 )
 

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