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Operators relieved as service closure deadline extended

Delhi,Business/Economy, Tue, 24 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Telecom operators whose licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court in February heaved a sigh of relief after the apex court Tuesday extended the deadline for closing down their operations from June 2 to Sep 7.


The Supreme Court asked the government to conduct the 2G auction by Aug 31, extending its earlier deadlline of June 2 by nearly three months. It gave time till Sep 7 to the players who have been affected by the Feb 2 judgement to continue with their operations.


"We welcome the fact that the court has ensured speedy auctions and allowed our operations to continue till such time," Uninor, a joint venture between India's Unitech and Norway-based Telenor, said in a statement.


"However, it also means that the government must move fast to review some of the recommendations that are otherwise certain to have a catastrophic impact on the industry and on tariffs for the common man," it added.


Uninor was referring to the telecom regulator's recommendations Monday setting a high base price for the 2G auction.


The service provider stands to lose all its 22 licences following apex court order. It has over 40 million customers across the country.


Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), which provides services under the MTS brand and is to lose 21 out of its 22 licences, said the order came as "a huge relief to our customers, employees, investors and all members of the telecom ecosystem who are both directly and indirectly associated with SSTL."


"It is heartening to note that the Honorable supreme court has clarified its position in favour of our plea," a company spokesperson said.


SSTL had filed an application before the apex court seeking clarification that quashing of the licenses is to become operative simultaneously with the conclusion of the grant of licenses and auction process for allocation of 2G spectrum.


The apex court Feb 2, 2012, had ordered cancellation of 122 licenses that were granted by former telecom minister A. Raja on and after Jan 10, 2008. The court had said that all these licenses should be allocated after carrying out their auction.


It had given the government four months' time till June 2 to complete the process of auctioning the cancelled licenses. This was also the date when the affected firms had to close down their operations.


However, the government had cited procedural difficulties and had sought 400 days time to complete the process of auctioning the cancelled 2G licenses. The court did not accept the government's plea and gave it additional time till Aug 31 to comply with its directions.


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