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DoT may seek clarifications from TDSAT on its ruling

G. Rambabu

Although the cellular operators have not appealed to the Supreme Court against the TDSAT judgment on WLL, the basic operators may resort to this step in case the clarification by the Tribunal states that the basic licence would have to be amended.

New Delhi , Aug. 26

THE Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to rush to the Telecom Dispute Settlement Tribunal (TDSAT) to clear the confusion over whether an amendment to the basic service licence is required to keep the distinction between limited mobility (WLL) and cellular services. This follows the latest threat by the private basic operators to resort to litigation if any changes are made to their licence conditions.

According to official sources, since the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had, based on the TDSAT ruling on WLL, recommended a change in basic service licence to bar the operators from offering call forwarding and multiple registration, it was felt that a clarification from the Tribunal would help it to take a stand on the matter.

While the private cellular operators have been interpreting the TDSAT ruling to state that it had clearly called for limiting the value-added services, the WLL operators contend that it had not been asked for. Even the TRAI, while agreeing that these facilities were legally permissible, it was necessary to amend the licence to keep the "spirit and motive" of the tribunal judgment.

Caught between the varying opinion from either side, the DoT has decided that it would be best for the TDSAT to provide this clarification, instead of suo moto abiding with the TRAI recommendation. This would place it on a stronger wicket in case the basic operators wish to fight it legally.

In any case, they noted that the Tribunal would be concluding its hearing on the petition filed by the cellular operators association of India (COAI) seeking to bar the WLL operators from using mobile switching centre (MSC) in their networks. Without the use of MSC, the WLL operators will not be able to offer the value-added services such as SMS and call forwarding to their subscribers. The cellular operators are insisting that they should use only V5.2 architecture which does not provide the same flexibility.

In any case, the sources noted that the legal battles regarding WLL are far from over. Although the cellular operators have not appealed to the Supreme Court against the TDSAT judgment on WLL, the basic operators may resort to this step in case the clarification by the Tribunal states that the basic licence would have to be amended. In such an eventuality, the DoT which has fought the three-year-old WLL case alongside the basic operators may end up changing partners. It could well be the basic operators against the DoT and COAI.

The wheel would have turned a full circle. But that of course depends on what the TDAT clarification would state.

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