New Delhi: India’s telecom regulator has asked the government not to issue new licences until it decides whether there is a need for more firms in the crowded market, a move that could further delay entry of firms such as AT&T Inc.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked the government to “keep in abeyance” the grant of new second generation (2G) licences till the watchdog finalizes its recommendations, it said in a letter posted on its website.
India has issued 281 licences for the country’s 22 telecom zones, or up to 14 licensees per zone.
These include 122 licences from 575 applications received in 2007 from 46 companies, including real estate and technology firms with no telecom experience.
Trai has asked the government not to grant any new licences till it issues recommendations on spectrum allocation and pricing.
“Sufficient competition seems to be already in place and spectrum is a scarce resource,” the government had said in a letter to the regulator recently.
The government had also sought the watchdog’s views on auctioning spectrum for the 2G mobile standard, instead of the current practice of giving licencees entitlement for spectrum.
The regulator plans to bring out a comprehensive list of recommendations on issues such as capping the number of service providers, allocation and sharing of spectrum, and pricing of spectrum.
The government is also planning to call bids for third generation (3G) licences.
Mobile 3G phone services enable high-speed data access allowing users to surf the Internet or download content, including music and video, at speeds faster than those supported by current cellular technologies.
AT&T had expressed interest to acquire licences for all of India’s 22 telecom zones. Others in the queue include firms linked to Videocon Industries Ltd, DLF Ltd, JSW Steel Ltd, Hinduja Group and Moser Baer India Ltd.
PTI contributed to this story.