TDSAT stays Trai direction on MNP for cancelled licences

 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 September 7, 2012 and would have all rights and obligations flowing therefrom.

"If that be so, the impugned Regulations  would cause prejudice to the petitioner and ex-facie they must be said to have been discriminated against vis-à-vis those licenses whose licenses have not been canceled," the tribunal said.

Moreover, the tribunal also took note over the allegations of MTS and Uninor of poaching of their customers by rivals. Uninor had produced some of the SMSes send by some rival telcos before the tribunal.

Agreeing to their submissions, a TDSAT bench headed by its Chairman S B Sinha said, "the Respondent (Trai) is hereby restrained from giving effect to and/or further effect to the impugned Regulations till further orders.

"Prima-facie, the Petitioners have been carrying out their operations in a full-fledged manner. They have a large number of consumers despite the orders of the Supreme Court of India. A large number of customers have joined their network. Some of the customers have ported in," the tribunal said.

SSTL, a joint venture between the Sistema of Russia and India's Shyam Group, offers mobile and data services under the MTS brand. The JV has a license for 23 circles and Sistema owns 56.68 per cent in SSTL.

Unitech Wireless is a JV firm between Norwegian telecom firm Telenor and Indian realty firm Unitech and operates under the brand name Uninor. Telenor owns 67.25 per cent, while rest 32.75 per cent is owned by the realty firm Unitech.

The Supreme Court had on February 2 this year held that the process of allocating 122 2G licenses including those to Uninor and SSTL was 'arbitrary and unconstitutional' and cancelled all of them.

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