New Delhi: Uninor, a joint venture between Unitech and Norway’s Telenor, on Tuesday moved telecom tribunal TDSAT against the Department of Telecom’s (DoT) seeking damages from the company for not meeting its roll out obligations.
While the company has paid, under protest, Liquidated Damages (LD) for missing roll out deadlines for four circles, it is yet to pay for 6 other circles, for which it has been served notices.
Uninor is one of the new operators which was allotted 2G spectrum, or radio waves, by former telecom minister A Raja and is under scanner on eligibility criteria.
The company has challenged DoT’s demand notice, issued on 14 December 2010, for not fulfilling roll out obligations, although it has been allotment spectrum.
The matter was listed for hearing on Tuesday but due to some ‘technical reasons´, it has been adjourned to 6 January.
DoT sent notices to several firms, which got new 2G licenses bundled with start up spectrum but have not started offering services in various circles.
As per the conditions of the Unified Access Service License (UASL), the telcos are required to roll-out their networks within one year from the date of allocation of spectrum.
However, this period is to be calculated by excluding delay by SACFA (Standing Advisory Committee for Frequency Allocation) clearance for allocation.
According to the agreement, in case new licencees fail to roll out services within the stipulated period, DoT shall be entitled to recover LD charges.
The DoT notice, demanding crores of rupees in damages for non-compliance with the roll out conditions, was issued for Uninor’s 10 telecom circles, against which the company has moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
Senior advocates Meet Malhotra and CA Sundaram, appearing for the operator, said that DoT has made an error in calculating the period for the roll out time and Uninor was not given an opportunity to put forth its views.
They also said that the delay was caused due to delayed action of the DoT and not due to Uninor’s inaction.
“It is the DoT that is singularly and solely responsible for delaying, and causing the delay in meeting the roll out obligations -- by delay in SACFA Clearance, delay in allocation of the complete start up spectrum and introducing new and onerous mandatory requirements,” said Uninor.
It maintained that if the date of spectrum allocation and delay in obtaining SACFA clearance are properly calculated, then the company will not be liable for damages.
Uninor said the time taken for SACFA clearance should be excluded from the delay period calculated by DoT, which has not been done.
It also said that effective date for calculating delay should be from the allocation of spectrum and not from the day of the licence agreement.