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Basic operators strike back, move SC
BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi | October 14, 2003 09:43 IST
In a pre-emptive move, private basic telecom operators have approached the Supreme Court against levying of additional entry fee for WLL mobile services as ordered by the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal in its August 8 order.
Basic operators said the move was aimed at ensuring a level playing field between cellular and WLL operators while deciding on the entry fee.
The decision of the basic operators to approach the Supreme Court came as a surprise since it was widely expected that the cellular operators would be moving the apex court on the larger issue of allowing WLL limited mobility.
The ABTO move is expected to achieve three purposes. First, it will stymie cell firms' plans to approach the Supreme Court separately as they will automatically become party in this case. Secondly, it pre-empts any move by Trai to levy an entry fee.
Most importantly, it gives the group of ministers on telecom an indication of the aggressive stance to be taken by the basic operators if a hostile decision is given with regard to WLL limited mobility and unified licence.
Basic operators, however, said the move to go to court was not a fallout of Sunday's decision by the group of ministers to restrict the mobility of WLL services.
They said they were forced to go to court since the telecom regulator had indicated that an entry fee for WLL operators was in the offing. However, if the GoM's decision to ban call forwarding is implemented it would affect more than 5 lakh (500,000) Reliance Infocomm subscribers who use the facility.
Major impact would be in Delhi where Reliance is using call forwarding to allow subscribers to roam into satellite towns like Noida and Gurgaon. Reliance, however, maintains that it will continue to offer existing services.
The ABTO has argued that the cellular operators had been permitted services like SMS. Therefore, WLL services should be seen as value-added services for basic operators.
Contending that cellular operators have got benefits to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore (Rs 130 billion) on account of licence fee reduction from 17 per cent earlier to 8 to 12 per cent, ABTO said that the level playing field was tilted in favour of cellular operators.
The telecom tangle