SC sets aside TDSAT order on microwave spectrum charges

SC sets aside TDSAT order on microwave spectrum charges

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside an order of telecom tribunal TDSAT, directing the Department of Telecom (DoT) to charge CDMA mobile operators for spectrum from the day radio waves were allotted to them, and not from the time when licences were issued.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia set aside the TDSAT order and directed it to decide the issue afresh.

“We set aside the order passed by the tribunal. We direct TDSAT decide it de novo," said the bench, asking the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to decide the matter expeditiously.

DoT has challenged the TDSAT order in the apex court.

Earlier, the court had issued notices to Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and the CDMA lobby group Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI).

The dispute centres on whether the royalty for microwave spectrum should be levied from the date of earmarking it for operators or the date of the license fee.

On 5 February 2009, TDSAT held that spectrum charges would be collected by DoT from CDMA players from the date of issue of microwave spectrum.

It said that if the spectrum was allotted to operators in the first half of a quarter, they would have to pay the license fee for the entire quarter. However, if it was alloted in the second half of the quarter, then the liability was to be on pro rata basis.

DoT submitted that according to its licence agreement with the operators, they have to pay royalty in accordance with various factors such as frequency, hop and link length, area of operation and so on.

It said that for efficient and optimal use of spectrum, the government had decided to levy spectrum charges from the date of earmarking of the frequency.