The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that telecom companies that were unsuccessful in the fresh 2G spectrum auction held in November last and those who did not participate in it would cease to operate “forthwith.”
The order is likely to hit the plans of Norwegian Telenor’s (which entered in a partnership with Unitech as Uninor) to continue operating services in Mumbai circle, where it has 1.8 million subscribers. But Uninor said the order will not hit services in the six circles of UP East, UP West, Bihar and Jharkhand, AP, Maharashtra and Goa and Gujarat since the Telenor Group has secured fresh spectrum for 20 years in these circles.
The court order is not likely to have any other major impact on the consumers as most of the companies have already stopped operations in the service areas for which they did not acquire spectrum.
Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL), a nation-wide CDMA service provider, also said the order was not applicable to it.
A bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice KS Radhakrishnan also held that the companies that were successful in the auction should start their services in the respective circles immediately.
The bench clarified that its February 2, 2012 verdict was not applicable on telecom companies holding the spectrum in the 900 MHz band.
The bench also directed the government to immediately put on fresh auction the entire 2G spectrum for the licences cancelled by it. In November 2012, the government had auctioned 471 MHz of spectrum cancelled due to the February 2012 verdict.
However, SC has been extending the deadline for the companies, permitting them to continue despite the cancellation. The order comes in wake of the government moving another application seeking extension of time for the operators.
The court a year ago had cancelled all the licences issued by former communications minister A Raja on first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis.