Operators told to reinstate Indian services until cancellation date

Despite having already shut down services in India, announcing that they will cease doing business in the country and notifying their subscribers to move to different networks, operators S Tel and Etisalat have been told by India’s telecoms regulator that they must reinstate their services until the official license cancellation date.

Loop Telecom has also announced that it will be exiting the market, but must continue offering services until June 2, 2012.

“Until that date, the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has told them that they are obligated by the license conditions to continue offering services,” explained Anubhuti Belgaonkar, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Indian operator S Tel had sent a letter to the TRAI explaining that the Supreme Court’s judgment in February to revoke all of the 122 2G spectrum licences issued in 2008 had led to “en-masse network disconnections by all of our network infrastructure service providers, bringing about a complete clamp down on our network connectivity and operations.”

“As such, our infrastructure vendors have withdrawn the support and links to our MSCs, including managed services of our network,” the letter continued.

However, the TRAI has dismissed S Tel’s objections, replying with a letter of its own, which stated:

“It shall be the responsibility of the licensee to maintain the quality of service, even during the period when the notice for surrender/termination of license is pending. If the quality of service is not maintained, during the said notice period, it shall be liable to pay damages.”

UAE operator Etisalat, which has been operating in India as part of a JV with real estate firm DB Realty, said that it would not accept any request for payments by creditors or claimants, except those ordered by the Bombay High Court, which had adjourned the hearing on its winding-up petition to April 18.

“Etisalat DB confirms that this matter has been adjourned to April 18 for all claimants to file the particulars of their claim. Until April 18, no payment to be made by the company to any creditor or claimant other than under the orders of the Court,” the firm said in a statement.

Meanwhile, real estate firm Uninor and Norwegian operator Telenor have been told by India’s Company Law Board (CLB) to refer their dispute over their joint venture, Uninor, for arbitration in Singapore.

Telenor has voiced its intention to remain in the Indian market but is seeking to sever ties with Unitech and start afresh with a new company and seek new operating licences. Unitech is opposing the move, arguing that Telenor cannot unilaterally scrap their agreement and that it had veto right to block any asset transfer, despite already stating that it wants exit the telecom industry and focus on their core real estate business.

Telenor said in a statement that it was “surprised” by the order, which it would challenge in a higher court, while Unitech said in a statement of its own that it was “pleased” that the CLB’s order “clearly defines a dispute resolution mechanism”.

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