India’s Supreme Court extends licenses of AFK Sistema’s subsidiaries

Tuesday, 15 January 2013 05:00

The Indian Supreme Court has allowed operators, which were earlier stripped of their mobile telecommunication licenses, including SSTL (Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd.) belonging to Russian AFK Sistema, to continue their operations until February 4, 2013.

Earlier, they were required to stop operations on January 18.

The court thus responded to the telecommunication department’s request to extend the revoked licenses until March when the auction for 2G frequencies is to be completed in India.

By February 4, telecommunication authorities have to submit the final list of contenders, and the Supreme Court will make a new extension of the deadline for telecom operators.

In February 2012, the Indian Supreme Court revoked 122 licenses for the provision of mobile telecommunication services in India under the MTS brand name. SSTL was one of the affected companies.

The Court said the licenses had been issued arbitrarily by the then minister of communications and information technologies in violation of the law, whose actions resulted in damage assessed at more than 36 billion U.S. dollars. SSTL lost 21 licenses.

Russian MTS said, however, that the Supreme Court allowed, inter alia, MTS to continue its telecom operations till January 18, 2013. “MTS wishes to inform millions of its customers that being fully committed to its customers and the investments it has made in India, it intends to continue its operations beyond January 18, 2013 and in this context has taken and is taking all the possible steps to ensure the continuity of its services beyond January 18, 2013,” the company said.

MTS has already filed a Curative Petition against the Judgment seeking to annul the cancellation of its licenses. “MTS believes that it has a very good case in the Curative Petition both in facts and law and is hopeful of a favorable order of restoration of its licenses. MTS is hopeful that the Supreme Court will take up its curative petition before January 18, 2013,” the company said in a notice.

SSTL repeatedly stated that the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling was unfair and filed a petition requesting restoration of its license.

SSTL was the only operator that sought to obtain permission for the use of CDMA frequencies in 2008. None of the auditors’ statements says that CDMA frequencies were as sought after as GSM ones. It is not clear when the company’s petition will be considered.

SSTL has been operating in India for more than three years. In October 2009, the company presented voice communication services in Rajasthan, while building at the same time a network in other parts of the country. It started operating under the MTS brand name in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in March of the following year. Also in October 2009, MTS launched EV-DO modem service in New Delhi, unparalleled in India at that time with only two more companies providing similar services, unlike the voice data communication service market, where 15 companies were operating that the moment.

SSTL is also actively developing a third segment of its business – affordable Android phones at prices below 100 U.S. dollars.

NEW DELHI, January 14 (Itar-Tass)

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