TDSAT allows DEN to do RIO deal with ZEEL; MSO to pay Rs 23.5 cr as dues

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has allowed multi system operator (MSO) DEN Networks to enter into a reference interconnect offer (RIO) deal with broadcaster ZEEL from 1 February.

The tribunal also said that the issue of outstanding dues will be dealt separately and will be further examined after receipt of the report from the Mediation Centre.

It has also directed DEN to pay admitted dues of Rs. 23.50 crore within one week from 2 February. DEN filed an affidavit claiming that the dues covering the month of January 2018 are approximately Rs 23.50 crore. However, ZEEL has claimed that the outstanding is Rs. 43.20 crores for the period including January 2018.

The tribunal acceded to DEN’s request to enter into RIO agreement with ZEEL after the BECIL report found the MSO’s system is concerned to be compliant with TRAI regulations.

However, the BECIL report doesn’t cover three joint venture companies of DEN which includes one in Mumbai and two at Delhi.

The three JVs have independent DAS licence along with independent head-end separate CAS and SMS servers. However, as there was no specified direction and also on account of time constraint, the audit could not cover the three joint venture companies of the petitioner.

ZEEL counsel submitted that it may not be feasible to have RIO based agreement only in respect of the petitioner, leaving out the JV companies unless the audit report with respect to the JV companies is also available.

In response, DEN counsel submitted that the agreements of all three joint ventures of the petitioner have also expired by December 2017 and it will have no objection and would rather welcome if they are also placed on RIO based agreements.

It was further noted that some areas under DEN’s system which has already been audited, are under separate agreements on fixed pay basis and their term will expire by end of March 2018.

The MSO has offered to go by the convenience of the broadcaster and if they find it convenient they may keep those agreements alive till 31.3.2018 or those areas may be placed on RIO by terminating the agreement prematurely to which the petitioner would have no objection.

The tribunal accepted the request made on behalf of the broadcaster that the systems of the three joint venture companies of the petitioner should also be subjected to audit by BECIL and it shall take into account all the relevant concerns expressed by the respondent in writing before the commencement of the audit.

The representative of the BECIL has expressed some practical difficulties in completing the proposed audit expeditiously. He submitted that at least six weeks’ time may be granted for the audit.

The tribunal granted six weeks’ time to BECIL to complete its audit and submit its report after furnishing a copy of the same to the parties. The audit charges will be payable by the MSO.

The matter has been posted for further hearing in the light of mediation report, on 21 February.

DEN had moved TDSAT against ZEEL’s disconnection notice over outstanding dues. The two parties are also contesting the quantum of outstanding dues.

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