Looks like the dispute between Aircel and Vodafone will soon come to an end, with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) stepping in and ordering Aircel to pay 5 paise per message as SMS termination fee to Vodafone until the matter is completely resolved. The tribunal has also demanded Vodafone to restore interconnection of SMSs generated on Aircel’s networks.
This interim order passed by the tribunal is charging Aircel only half the amount demanded by Vodafone as SMS termination fees. Operators pay termination charges to each other on calls and SMSs that originate on their networks, and these charges have a direct impact on the tariffs they charge their customers.
A single-member bench by PK Rastogi by the tribunal expressed that consumers should not be expected to suffer due to the SMS services being affected due to this dispute. Vodafone has been asked to file a reply to this interim order within the next three weeks. Aircel has also been given two weeks to file a rejoinder.
The final hearing of this dispute between the two telecom companies will take place on January 10, 2013. Vodafone had asked Aircel to pay Rs. 40 crore as SMS termination fee, including the applicable tax for services between April 2011 and September 2012. This demand was opposed by Aircel, following which Vodafone disconnected SMS termination facility in 5 circles, making it impossible for Aircel customers to send SMSs to Vodafone numbers.
Aircel opposed this and insisted to continue paying for SMS service on “bill and keep basis” and that Vodafone’s unilateral proposal for charging 10 paise per SMS as termination fee was “illogical and arbitrary”.