SC asks Airtel to restore SMS services to Aircel

Accepting Aircel's plea to clear its short messaging service (SMS) interconnectivity dues of more than Rs 56 crore within two weeks, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Bharti Airtel to reconnect its services within 24 hours.

Airtel had blocked Aircel's connectivity on November 9, days before Diwali. for spamming its network. In return, Aircel had blocked out Airtel. The bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi said that Airtel will also refund the money with interest in the event of Aircel succeeding in the matter.

However, it said that Aircel will pay Airtel inter-operability fee of 10 paisa per SMS till the disposal of the matter. Earlier, the bench had issued notice to Bharti Airtel on the Aircel's appeal against high termination charges. Senior counsel Harish N Salve and Meet Malhotra, appearing for Aircel, sought unblocking of the SMS services.

Challenging TDSAT's September 24 order that dismissed its plea, Aircel had moved the apex court challenging Airtel's demand of 10 paisa per SMS.

The telecom major also demanded R56.39 crore towards SMS interconnection charge from Aircel. Terming the levy as "unfair and anti-consumer," Aircel contended that the charge for SMS termination was historically negligible and operators have never charged each other. Aircel further claimed that Airtel has used its dominance in the market and persuaded new players in 2008 to pay 10 paise per SMS termination, which was in favour of new players as more SMSs terminated in their network.

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