Govt makes case for more time for revoked telecom licences

NEW DELHI Tue Jan 8, 2013 7:43pm IST

A construction supervisor speaks on a mobile phone amid rolls of underground telephone cable pipes on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad November 29, 2010. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder/Files

A construction supervisor speaks on a mobile phone amid rolls of underground telephone cable pipes on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad November 29, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Krishnendu Halder/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The government has asked the Supreme Court whether mobile phone carriers whose licences will be revoked due to an earlier order can operate until an airwave auction in March, said a senior government official with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move aims to generate more interest in the auction after the government failed to attract takers for GSM spectrum in four key telecommunication zones and no bidders for CDMA areas in an auction in November, the official said.

The official, who said the government filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, said an extension would also ensure continuity of services to consumers.

The Supreme Court ordered 122 zonal permits to be revoked last year, saying a 2008 government grant process was flawed.

The court order affected eight carriers including the Indian units of Norway's Telenor (TEL.OL) and Russia's Sistema, as well as Idea Cellular.

The government held an auction of mobile phone airwaves in November to allow some of those companies to win back spectrum, but the sale raised less than a quarter of its 400 billion rupee target.

An extension by the court would allow Sistema's Indian unit to continue operations beyond January 18 in 21 zones, as it did not participate in the earlier auction. It would also allow Telenor to continue to provide services in Mumbai.

(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee)

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