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May 30, 1997


Talks next month over telecom license deadlock

A decisive round of talks is being scheduled next month in a bid to end a persistent deadlock over signing of license agreements with prospective basic telephone service operators, Telecom Commission Chairman A V Gokak said today.

"The Department of Telecommunications is ready with a final draft of license agreement and any further dithering on the part of private operators would force the department to place the draft before the government for future course of action," Gokak told a news conference in New Delhi.

The press meet was held on the eve of the expiry of the deadline set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for resolution of all pending issues relating to finalisation of license agreement for basic services.

A letter from the regulatory body to the Telecom Commission earlier this month had stated that the TRAI would move in if the commission failed on this front.

Gokak said so far only two companies - Reliance and Bharati Telecom - have signed letters of intent and paid licence fee.

He said he was hopeful of Esar Telecom to come for an out of court settlement soon.

Gokak said the RPG Group, another company involved in a legal battle with DoT, perhaps needs more time to fall in line as it has to take a decision in consultation with its foreign collaborator, a Japanese government company.

The Telecom Commission chairman said DoT is studying legal implications of a TRAI pronouncement earlier this week, rejecting DoT's contention that the regulatory authority had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on issues covered under arbitration clause of licence agreement between the department and a service provider.

The DoT may also seek legal interpretation on whether the TRAI had jurisdiction over settling a dispute between a licensee and the licenser, he said.

He, however, welcomed the TRAI's ruling that a dialogue between the petitioners and DoT is by far the best way to ensure a speedier settlement of disputes rather than taking recourse to the regulatory body.

Gokak rejected suggestions that DoT is taking TRAI as an adversary. He said "It is a quasi judicial body with which we will interact. We will never undermine its position."

He said it is a matter of satisfaction that telecom is the first sector where the regulatory system has become operational.


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