Even as the CBI on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that decisions taken by Dayanidhi Maran on delaying licences to Aircel are under investigation, more evidences have unearthed about how the minister misusing his position to prevent state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd from giving interconnection of its network to Dishnet Wireless Ltd.
The company was a sister concern of Aircel; the two companies got merged later.
Last week, the CBI took all the files relevant to this issue from BSNL.
On February 14, HT first reported how Astro, a Maxis group firm, got the Cabinet nod to invest R675 crore in Sun Direct TV — a firm owned by Kalanidhi Maran, the DMK leader’s elder brother.
Interconnectivity allows subscribers of one network to talk to subscribers of another network and is mandatory.
In 2005, BSNL accounted for about 96% of the total 4 crore fixed-line subscribers and more than 23% of the total 4.8 crore GSM subscribers in India. This means any operators could not have launched its services commercially without interconnecting its network with BSNL.
Dishnet got licences for seven telecom circles — Assam, North East, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, J&K, Himachal Pradesh — in May 2004, just before Maran became the minister.
In order to roll out the network, the company applied for the points of interconnection (POI) with BSNL. However, when Dishnet didn’t get POIs, it sent repeated letters to BSNL and to the minister until February 2005. In August 2005, BSNL gave it interconnection in just 76 out of 461 POIs.
As long as C Sivasankaran owned Dishnet, Maran delayed granting licences and spectrum to it against the set rules.
When Sivasankaran finally sold the firm with all its circles to Maxis in November 2006 for R3, 600 crore, Maran granted it spectrum out of turn by flouting the established first-come-first-served rule. Maran also granted licences to it without seeking the mandatory recommendation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.