New Delhi: The Centre on Friday informed the Delhi High Court that the renewal of licences for 900 MHz spectrum of three leading mobile service operators would be decided within two weeks.
"The government will decide their applications (for renewal of licences) within two weeks as per the law," Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A S Chandhiok told a bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher.
Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Loop Telecom had approached the high court against the Department of Telecommunications' (DoT) decision to put up for auction the more efficient 900 Mhz spectrum.
The telecom firms contended that they have in their possession the 900 MHz spectrum since November 1994 and without considering their plea for renewal of licence, the DoT has put up the radio waves for auction on March 11.
After recording the ASG's submission, the court said it will dispose of the petitions of the three service providers and "the detail order will be passed later".
The companies moved the high court after the Supreme Court last week said that auction of 900 Mhz spectrum was not part of its February 2, 2012 order by which 122 2G licences in the 800 MHz band were cancelled and the companies were free to challenge it before any court of law.
While Airtel contended that the DoT's decision was "premature", Vodafone said it had obtained the licence for 900 MHz band after competitive bidding in 1994 and it will expire in 2014.
"The government's decision is premature. It would deprive us from valuable right to have spectrum...," former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee, appearing for Airtel, said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Vodafone said, "I'm forced to bid for the spectrum which I have already with me. This (March 11) auction is for future providers whose service will be operative from 2014 after expiry of my licence. My application for extension is filed which is pending with DoT. Without taking a decision they are asking me to put 900 Mhz into auction."
The telecom majors, in their plea, had sought directions to the government not to auction the 900 MHz band and to extend their licences.
The telecom operators sought the extension under clause 4.1 of the licence agreement, under which the government can extend the period of licence by 10 years at one time if the request is made by the operator during the 19th year of the licence period.
Vodafone's petition has urged the government to stop the auction of 900 Mhz while it may go ahead with that of 1,800 and 800 Mhz bands.
According to the operators, the DoT plans to auction 900 Mhz along with auction of 1,800 and 800 Mhz and the bidding will be held on March 11.
However, the auction of 900 Mhz spectrum, in the first instance, would happen only in the Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata circles, as per the plea.
First Published: Friday, February 22, 2013, 19:41