Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) has requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for a temporary licence so it can continue to operate till the new spectrum auction is held next month. The telecom operator had lost its 2G spectrum licence last year following the Supreme Court’s orders.

According to the Supreme Court’s order dated February 2, 2012, SSTL’s existing licence was cancelled, forcing it to end operations. The new spectrum auction is set to be held on March 11. Sistema Shyam is a joint venture between Russian conglomerate Sistema and Shyam Group from India.

SSTL, in its letter to the DoT, said that in the event of any negative order from the Supreme Court, it would request the department to grant it temporary licences till such time the auction process is completed and spectrum along with new licences are issued to SSTL. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), SSTL had over 1.26 crore customers in 21 service areas that will be impacted by the Apex court’s orders.

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Last week, the apex court had asked telecom operators whose licences were cancelled last year and had failed to win or participate in the auctions held in November 2012 to shut down operations immediately.

SSTL said that the Supreme Court’s order dated February 15, 2013 did not apply to it and a separate order is to be issued for it. SSTL informed DoT that the company’s counsel has said in the court that “SSTL is desirous of participating in the upcoming auction.”

The CDMA spectrum auctions did not end up being held in November thanks to the lack of bidders. Companies who were desirous of bidding for the CDMA spectrum cited high reserve prices as the reason for not participating in the auctions. SSTL said that it had stayed away from the auctions because it was waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on its curative petition filed in May, which happened to be pending for hearing at the time of the auction. In the petition, SSTL had sought exemption from the Apex court’s judgement of February 2, 2012 but was rejected by the court on February 14, 2013.

Also affected by this judgement was service provider Uninor that shut shop in Mumbai immediately after the order on February 16, 2013, leaving customers in a lurch. Uninor was not provided with a temporary licence to allow customers to port out in the interim period, allowing services to be shut down in an orderly fashion.

This order has left Uninor with no option but to down its shutters in the Mumbai circle, even as operation in six other circles including Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat remain unaffected. This is thanks to the Telenor Group already securing fresh spectrum for the next 20 years in the six circles of Maharashtra (including Goa), Gujarat, UP East, UP West, Bihar (including Jharkhand) and Andhra Pradesh. The company says that it will sign roaming agreements with other operators to ensure that all Uninor customers get seamless connectivity when travelling to Mumbai. “All Uninor customers from Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and other circles will continue to be able to use their Uninor phones in Mumbai,” it said.

DoT secretary R Chandrashekhar has assured that they are working out a way, whereby those customers will be able to port out of the network using Mobile Number Portability (MNP). “The customers can certainly make request for porting out their number…that is something we will try and work out,” he was quoted as saying.

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