The Supreme Court on Friday gave three-month extension to telecom regulator TRAI for completing formulation of the new Interconnection Usage Charge (IUC) regime.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia allowed the urgent plea of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking more time for IUC.
Interconnection charges are paid by a telecom service provider for using network of other operators for transmitting and completing a call.
The Apex court had on February 4 given TRAI four months for coming up with recommendation on telecom interconnection charges, which expired on June 4.
Meanwhile, TRAI today faced intense opposition from GSM operators in the court for not including capital expenditure (CAPEX) while determining fresh IUC. They submitted that the regulator was not acting fairly.
Senior advocate Harish Salve and Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, respectively, said that TRAI should add CAPEX and OPEX (operation expenditure) while determining fresh IUC.
Mr. Salve further alleged that the entire exercise of the TRAI to exclude CAPEX in the earlier IUC, was done just to favour an operator, Reliance Communication.
However, the apex court declined to go into it and said that at present it would decide only on TRAI plea.
TRAI, in an application filed last month, had requested the apex court “to grant further 3 months’ time to TRAI to carry out exercise in framing IUC regulation”.
The telecom regulator, facing opposition from the new and established telecom operators over the issues and methods adopted in consultation process to review IUC, had also requested the apex court to give suitable directions over it.
It had requested the apex court to “grant suitable direction regarding the procedure and method to be followed by it (TRAI) since there are difficulties/issues with regard to implementation of compliance with the directions of TDSAT in the impugned order“.
TRAI’s IUC regulation was widely opposed by the state-run BSNL and private operators -- Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, Etisalat DB and CDMA lobby group AUSPI on various grounds.
In May, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had dismissed the plea filed by the UK-based telecom operator Vodafone, which opposed some of the questions incorporated in IUC consultation paper of TRAI.
On February 4 this year, the apex court had directed TRAI to frame the IUC regulations afresh as per the directions of the TDSAT.
TDSAT had on September 29 last year set aside the TRAI’s Interconnection Usage Charges (Regulation), 2009 and asked the telecom regulator to bring out fresh regulations in consultations with various stake holders.