Telecom tribunal TDSAT has stayed the direction of TRAI removing the 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 for 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 … those licenses whose licences 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 sent by some rival telcos before the tribunal.

Agreeing to their submissions, a TDSAT Bench headed by its Chairman Mr 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.

(This article was published on July 22, 2012)
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