Idea Cellular has been directed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to not disconnect Aircel from its network. The body further stated that neither of the operators will charge SMS termination fee, till the matter is resolved. In its interim order, TDSAT noted, “It is directed that the respondent (Idea) shall not disconnect the signals of the petitioner (Aircel), no termination charge will be payable by any party to other party during pendency of these petitions.”

No bulk SMSes, MMSes for the next 15 days (Image credit: Getty Images)

Idea directed to not disconnect Aircel from its network (Image credit: Getty Images)

On a related note, TDSAT even asked Loop Mobile to pay Idea Cellular 5 paise per message as SMS termination charges – half of the 10 paise SMS termination charges per message that Idea Cellular had sought. “.. Petitioner (Loop) will start paying 50 per cent of the amount demanded by the respondent (Idea) @ 10 paisa per SMS on net inflow of traffic basis. This amount will be calculated and paid with effect from the date of filing of this petition,” TDSAT added. Reportedly, TDSAT's order came by way of two separate petitions against the SMS termination fee sought by Idea. 

Recently, Aircel was directed by TDSAT to pay Vodafone an SMS termination fee of five paisa per SMS till the TDSAT gives its final word on the matter. Vodafone had earlier sought a termination fee of 10 paisa per SMS from Aircel. In the meanwhile, Vodafone has been told to restore the interconnection of SMSes generated on Aircel's network. Noting that in the event SMS services between the two operators are disconnected, consumers would suffer, a single member-bench of PK Rastogi arrived at the interim order. A final hearing is awaited for January 10. 

Only last month, Vodafone asked Aircel to cough up Rs 40 crore as SMS termination fee plus applicable tax from April 2011 to September 2012. Aircel opposed this. Further, Vodafone gave Aircel time until November 9, 2012 to pay the amount. 

Earlier this month, the SMS service between Airtel and Aircel resumed. 

Those quite unaware about the situation should know that around Diwali this year, Bharti Airtel resorted to closing its network to incoming text messages from Aircel and Reliance Communications subscribers. According to Bharti Airtel executives, the decision came after Aircel and RCom began bombarding its network with “free spam messages”. Aircel and RCom reportedly denied Airtel’s claims. Earlier reports quoted an Airtel spokesperson as saying, “They (Aircel and RCOM) are sending free SMS to our networks, which, in turn, is impacting the quality of service on our network and, therefore, the quality of service to our own customers.” A report by The Economic Times, though reported Aircel and RCom as levying allegations against Airtel saying it is “resorting to pressure tactics” with Diwali around the corner to “force them to pay more towards SMS termination charges.” Airtel had been accused of taking undue advantage of its dominant position.

The report went ahead to quote an Aircel spokesperson as saying that Airtel sought a bilateral interconnect agreement, following which a non-Airtel user would be charged 10 paisa per SMS. The spokesperson shared that Aircel did not agree with this, since it would raise the costs to the consumers considerably. 

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