NATIONAL

Phone firms seek SC order for a level playing field

NEW DELHI OCT. 13. In yet another turn to the ongoing phone wars, basic phone companies have approached the Supreme Court for directions to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to ensure a level playing field while determining additional entry fees, "if any", to be paid by them.

Confirming the development, industry sources said the issue at stake is a directive by the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in August. Capping a bitterly fought case, the TDSAT upheld the legality of limited mobility (WLL-M) services. It also directed the TRAI to impose an additional entry fees on WLL (M) companies because their entry in 2001 had a "definite impact" on the level playing field, vis-�-vis, cellular companies.

The TRAI is in the process of determining the additional entry fees and WLL (M) companies are apprehensive that the plea by their rivals, the cellular companies, for a high amount might affect their profitability. Besides, this is not the only time they will have to pay additional entry fees. Next on the agenda is unification of basic and cellular licenses. WLL (M) companies may have to pay a one-time entry fee so that they can legally offer the same type of roaming services being provided by cellular companies.

Since there is a likelihood of WLL (M) companies being asked to pay additional entry fee twice — once to correct the "disturbed level playing field and the second time when basic and cellular licenses are merged — they have thought it prudent to approach the apex court. Analysts believe this approach will help WLL (M) companies till the Supreme Court takes up their petition shortly. By then, TRAI would have submitted its recommendations on the entry fees to be paid by WLL (M) companies for a unified license.

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