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India Supreme Court asks govt to complete spectrum auctions by 31 Aug

25 апреля 2012

India's top court Tuesday set an Aug. 31 deadline for the government to complete a bandwidth auction for basic mobile-phone services, and allowed companies affected by a recent judgment cancelling their licenses to operate until Sept. 7, rather than June 2.

The latest order offers some respite to telecom operators such as the Indian units of Norway's Telenor ASA and Russia's Sistema JSFC, whose operations and billions of dollars of investments face an uncertain future after the Supreme Court's Feb. 2 judgment scrapping their licenses.

The court in February ordered the cancellation of 122 licenses issued to several companies following complaints of corruption in their 2008 allotment. That order was to take effect June 2.

It also directed that state assets such as spectrum should be allotted through auctions, and asked the telecom regulator to frame rules for the auctions.

Following the February order, the government petitioned the court saying the bandwidth auctions could take as much as 400 days to complete. It also drew a timeline to complete the process by March 2013. The move was opposed by some of the affected companies which wanted the process to be completed by June 2.

The Supreme Court Tuesday rejected the government's auction schedule.

Telecom Secretary R. Chandrashekhar wasn't immediately available for comments.

The court order came a day after India's telecommunications regulator suggested a steep rise in the base prices of bandwidth to be auctioned later in the year compared with the price at which India allotted the 122 licenses and bandwidth in 2008. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India also suggested taking back bandwidth in the 900 Megahertz band and replacing it with spectrum in the 1800 Mhz band, but at higher prices.

Telecom companies and industry bodies termed the suggestions "arbitrary, regressive and inconsistent," while analysts say the proposals may push up costs and tariffs.

TRAI Chairman J.S. Sarma Tuesday, however, sought to dispel the fears and said that companies' profitability would remain at current levels or improve in the future as data usage increases.

Sarma said that bandwidth is currently "unduly cheap." He accepted that the suggested base price is high, but said it factored in 20 years of holding time with the companies, lower costs for rolling out operations, and multiple use of bandwidth, including for fourth-generation services that provide much higher speed of data transfer than third-generation services.

Still, shares of telecom companies fell Tuesday in a firm Mumbai market.

Bharti Airtel Ltd. ended down 2% at INR306.35, Idea Cellular Ltd. was off 3.7% at INR80.15 and Reliance Communications Ltd. closed 1.4% lower at INR80.40.


Источник: Total Telecom

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