Bharti Airtel seeks migration to unified licence regime with riders

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, has sought the Department of Telecommunication’s (DoT) approval to migrate to new licensing regime, provided the outcome of various court cases against the department is extended to the new framework.

The migration to Unified Licences (UL) allows telecom companies to provide all services under one permit using any technology as against the existing regime which places various restrictions. Besides, the UL allows operators to share active infrastructure like spectrum, take part in mergers and acquisition activity that were not part of earlier Unified Access Service Licence (UASL).

In a letter to DoT, Airtel has said: “It is our submission that certain terms and conditions of the UL & UL Guidelines already form the subject matter of pending court proceedings, to which the DoT is also a party. These proceedings are at an advanced stage of adjudication before various courts and tribunals across India and both parties are bound by and will continue to be bound by the interim orders that have been passed therein till the final disposal. Therefore, the rule of sub-judice will apply to all clauses of the UL & UL guidelines, which forms subject matter of proceedings, and would be subject to the final orders and principles laid down by courts/TDSAT.”

The company said it seeks to DoT’ approval to apply for migration from UASL to UL with the above understanding. The company in the letter dated November 1 listed seven matters that are sub-judice including extension of licence, one-time fee, spectrum usage charges, definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) and 3G inter-circle roaming.

An Airtel spokesperson declined to comment.

Following the new UL guidelines announced in August, GSM industry body COAI had informed the DoT that unilateral imposition of the norms on incumbent telecom operators could lead to legal disputes.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm, MTS India – mobile telecom service brand of Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd (SSTL), and Idea have already secured unified telecom licences. Source: PTI New Delhi, Friday, November 15, 2013 | 12:32 IST