New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved verdict in the telecom licence extension pleas filed by several operators whose right to use spectrum in the 900 MHz band comes to an end this December. These licences were granted in 1995.

A bench of justices J. Chelameswar and R.K. Agrawal will rule on whether an extension of 10 years can be granted to telcos like Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Reliance Telecom Ltd.

Telcos were seeking extension of 10 years as per the earlier National Telecom Policy. However, after a change in policy in 2012, the Department of Telecom (DoT) refused to extend the licences for these companies.

While the government said that subscriber bases for telcos would not be affected owing to mobile number portability options, telcos claimed that it was an “unworkable and unmanageable situation". Claiming that this would directly touch upon consumer interest, and therefore public interest, telcos said that extending their licence would help foster affordable and effective communication and undisturbed continuity in service.

The government, on the other hand, argued that the telcos were not doing “charity" for the consumers. Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar said that over the 20 years since licences were granted to these telcos, Bharti Airtel had earned roughly 4.6 trillion, Vodafone India 2.85 trillion, Idea Cellular 1.76 trillion and Reliance 1.4 trillion.

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