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Home / Politics / Policy /  SC notice to centre, Reliance Jio on Prashant Bhushan’s 4G petition

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the government and the Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, challenging the government’s decision to allow RJIL to offer voice services on its 4G spectrum.

Bhushan has challenged the government’s March 2013 decision to allow RJIL to offer voice telephony using data spectrum, referred to as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) by paying 1,658 crore (the effective entry fee paid by all telcos offering mobile telephony). Bhushan argues that this move is a back-door entry provided by the government to RJIL.

Bhushan contends that the apex court’s February 2012 verdict had cancelled 122 telecom licences and spectrum allocated to nine companies in January 2010 which paid the same fee. The department of telecommunications, or DoT, as a consequence of this verdict, should have discarded the 1,658 crore figure, as the reference rate, altogether. But instead, DoT allowed RJIL to offer voice services using the 2,300MHz spectrum it acquired in a 2010 auction, referred to as 4G spectrum, for the same fee. RJIL paid a total of 12,847 crore for the 4G spectrum.

RJIL is expected to launch high-speed wireless data services using this spectrum and the radio waves acquired in the February auction this year. Since the company had an Internet service provider (ISP) licence and not the unified access services licence, it could not offer voice services using the spectrum. RJIL has since applied for the unified licence that allows the company to offer any communication service it wishes to.

Separately, DoT has also replied to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG’s) allegations that it allowed an undue benefit of more than 20,000 crore to RJIL by allowing it to convert its ISP permit into a unified licence. DoT challenged the CAG’s allegations, saying that notice inviting applications for the 2010 auction did not stop winning bidders from offering voice services using the spectrum.

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