TDSAT asks Airtel not to stop Aircel's SMS interconnection
New Delhi: TDSAT has directed Bharti Airtel not to withdraw the interconnection of SMS services of Aircel from its network till the dispute between the two companies on termination fee is finally decided by the telecom tribunal.
Termination charges are paid by an operator from whose network calls or SMSes originate to the one on whose network these communications end. These charges impact tariffs.
Passing an interim order, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed that till the dispute over the SMS termination fee is decided by it, there would be no disconnection.
"Keeping in view the interest of the customers of both the parties (Airtel and Aircel), we are of the opinion that the respondent (Airtel) should be directed not to take further action for withdrawal of interconnection for SMS service, pending further adjudication before this tribunal," said a TDSAT bench on March 23.
However, the TDSAT bench headed by Justice S B Sinha also clarified that if Aircel loses its case against Bharti Airtel, then it would have to pay dues as claimed by Airtel or as determined by the tribunal along with the interest.
The TDSAT direction came over a petition filed by Aircel, against a demand of Rs 24.58 crore raised by Airtel on account of SMS terminated on its network between April to October 2011.
Airtel had raised the bill at the rate of 10 paise per SMS terminated on its network.
According to Aircel, such dues were "arbitrary, illegal, wrong, unilateral and without any basis".
Airtel had written a letter to Aircel on January 11, 2012 asking to settle the bill before January 31.
However, Aircel contended that there was no agreement signed. Since 2009, it was continuously requesting Airtel to execute agreements but no pact was signed.
Aircel contended that there was no agreement between them regarding SMS charges and the interconnection was done on the basis of "bill and keep" method. It further contended that there was no provision on making any payment for SMS termination to any party.
It said that even TRAI has continued the policy of forbearance from 2006 on SMS and according to the Telecommunicaton Interconnection Usage Charges 2009, if any charges are laid on SMS, then it should be transparent, reciprocal and non-discriminatory.
However, Airtel contended that forbearance does not mean "bill and keep" but is between the agreements of operators.
It further contended that Airtel had offered to execute Interconnect Usage Charge (IUC) agreement on SMSes from April 2011 and has already implemented with 85 percent of the operators.