2G auction: SC seeks Centre and Tatas response

2G auction: SC seeks Centre and Tatas response New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday sought a response of the Centre on the plea by an association of GSM mobile operators seeking inclusion of airwaves allocated to two Tata Group companies in the fresh auction along with 122 cancelled 2G spectrum to commence on November 12.

The court also issued a notice to the Department of Telecom (DoT) on a plea by a telecom firm questioning its decisions to restrict the sale of airwaves to be auctioned.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan, which decided to hear the matter on November 8, made it clear that its order will "not be an impediment" in starting fresh auction of 122 2G spectrum which was quashed by the apex court's February 2 judgement.

"While issuing notices, we deem it fit to make it clear that the factum of the issue will not impede the auction which is to be held on November 12," the bench said.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents GSM operators Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone has sought cancellation of licence and GSM spectrum of Tata group companies, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML) for inclusion in the fresh auction along with the 122 2G spectrum licences.

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi accepted the notice for the two Tata companies after a brief submission was made by COAI's counsel Abhishek Singhvi and Maninder Singh.

COAI has sought to include Tata's spectrum of 83.6 MHz allocated in 2008 along with the 122 2G licences in the fresh auction contending that TTSL and TTML received the radiowaves in pursuance of the same press releases through which the other 122 licences were granted.

The DoT had on January 10, 2008, issued two press releases for grant of licences and letter of intents following which 122 2G spectrum licences were allocated.

TTSL and TTML were granted the spectrum under the policy of allowing dual technology licences that allows companies, providing mobile services based on the code division multiple access (CDMA) platform, to also get GSM licences.

COAI submitted that the 83.6 MHz spectrum of Tata companies should be included in the 431.2 MHz spectrum of the 1800 band whose allocation was quashed by the Supreme Court.

Idea Cellular Ltd has also sought quashing of the spectrum auction guidelines issued by the Centre on July 3 contending the norms "illegally" reduce the quantum of spectrum to be auctioned and create an "artificial scarcity of spectrum".

The petition said the total quantum of spectrum would be enhanced to 514.8 MHz if the 19 licences comprising 83.6 MHz spectrum in 1800 MHz band granted to TTSL and TTML are included.

Idea submitted that with the limited availability of spectrum, the company might lose its pan-India status.

PTI