New Delhi: TDSAT Friday directed Aircel to pay SMS termination fee of 5 paise per message to Vodafone till the dispute is finally resolved by the tribunal.
Vodafone has also been directed to immediately restore its interconnection of SMSes generated on Aircel's network.
Passing an interim order, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) asked Aircel to pay 5 paise, half of Vodafone's demand of 10 paise per SMS as termination fee.
Termination charges are paid by an operator on whose network calls or SMSes originate to the one on whose network these communications end. These charges impact tariffs.
A single-member bench of P K Rastogi was of view that if SMS services between the two operators are disconnected then the consumers would suffer.
"Therefore, keeping in view the interest of both the parties, pending final hearing, it is directed that SMS services of the petitioner (Aircel) shall not be disconnected and wherever disconnection has taken place, the same will be restored immediately subject to the condition that petitioner will start paying 50 percent of the amount demanded by the respondent (Vodafone) at 10 paise per SMS on net inflow of traffic basis," the interim order said.
"There is a need to examine whether the rate of termination charges demanded by the respondent (Vodafone) are in accordance with the regulation, ... And whether such charges are transparent, reciprocal and nondiscriminatory," it further said.
The tribunal also asked Vodafone to file a reply to Aircel's plea within three weeks. It also granted two weeks time to Aircel to file the rejoinder. The matter has been listed for January 10, 2013 for final hearing.
In October, Vodafone had demanded Rs 40 crore as SMS termination fee plus applicable tax for the period between April 2011 to September 2012, which was opposed by Aircel.
Vodafone had asked Aircel to clear the dues within 15 days that is by November 9, 2012. It had also disconnected the SMS termination facility in 5 circles.
It was opposed by Aircel contending that arrangement between them for SMS services was on "bill and keep basis" and Vodafone had unilaterally proposed charging 10 paise SMS termination, which was "arbitrary and illogical".