The recent Supreme Court order directing mobile phone operators who did not win spectrum in the previous auctions to close down services immediately, came to several of the latter’s subscribers as a rude shock. The Telecom ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are now mulling over the possibility of refunding money to subscribers of networks that may shut soon. 

An official told PTI, “We will examine the issue and look at how interest of consumers can be saved.” A DoT official too affirmed that they were looking at protecting the interest of the consumers. 

Just this morning, we had reported about Uninor, one of the operators to be affected by the SC order, shutting shop in Mumbai from February 16. Reportedly, the operators who have been asked to close down services immediately have not been provided with temporary licenses either so that services can be closed down in an orderly manner and customers are able to port out. 


TRAI, DoT looking at options (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Uninor is bound by law to comply with the order of the Honourable Supreme Court and will therefore have to close down its mobile network immediately,” the company said. 

This order 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.

Only last week, in a rather crucial judgment, the Supreme Court had ruled that telecom companies that failed to win fresh 2G spectrum, and those others who did not participate in the auction,cannot operate henceforth. The court, in its ruling, stated, “The telecom companies which have been unsuccessful in the bidding and those after the cancellation of the licences did not participate in the fresh auction are directed to cease from continuing from operation forthwith and the successful bidders will immediately start in their respective circles.”

Last year in December, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had asked  Sistema, Telenor, Videocon and Tata Teleservices to inform their customers of the discontinuation of their services post January 18. According to the Economic Times, these mobile companies had their licenses cancelled following the auctions. TRAI reportedly has given these telecom companies a 10-day deadline to intimate all their users in those circles where they failed to renew their permits, by way of either a text message or in writing.

The sudden shutting down of operations has left Uninor customers in the city without service since the midnight of February 16. “We have pursued every alternative possible to continue our operations in Mumbai until the new auction takes place. Now the Court has ordered an immediate closure of operations and no temporary license too is available to allow a gradual process. Unfortunately, we have no choice now but to follow the Court’s order and close down our network immediately,” said Sigve Brekke, Managing Director of Uninor. “I deeply regret the consequences this has for our customers, employees and business partners – each of whom have been a part of a remarkable fight back last year. We will now make every effort, within the limitations of this Court order, to minimise the negative impact on all affected by this development.”

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