New Delhi: In an exercise that could roil existing GSM operators, Telecom Minister A Raja is likely to start releasing start-up radio frequency to new telecom players in the next two days, starting with Tamil Nadu circle.
“Department of Telecom will start allocating spectrum in four southern states in view of abundant availability in these areas followed by some other states like Maharashtra, Orissa and Bihar,” senior officials said.
According to sources, spectrum was available in the range of 50-60 MHz in nine states and was sufficient to accommodate all the new players as well as demand from the existing operators. However, in some important circles like Delhi, only one of the new players could get initial spectrum.
Going by the first-come-first-serve policy announced by Raja, Swan Telecom would be first one to get spectrum in Delhi ahead of others, while Videocon promoted Datacom would be considered if frequency was released by the Defence authorities - a matter that is being pursued by the DoT.
Some of the existing players have objected to the move, saying allocation of spectrum at this juncture would be illegal as the matter is subjudice. But the DoT officials pointed out that neither telecom tribunal TDSAT nor Delhi High Court has stayed the process of allocation of spectrum.
Existing GSM players led by Cellular Operators Association of India had challenged DoT’s move to allow dual technology for mobile services which enabled Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communication to pocket GSM spectrum ahead of all others.
Delhi High Court has reserved the judgement, while TDSAT had adjourned hearing on the matter to May.
New entrants had earlier questioned the government’s rationale for withholding release of spectrum in circles where it was available and had said that the delay was affecting their business plans.
Idling the available resource will give advantage to existing GSM players, as well as Reliance Communications (which has secured GSM spectrum under dual technology clause), besides affect government’s revenues and growth of telecom sector, one of the new players said.
The new players, who have made the required payment for the spectrum more than two months ago, include Videocon promoted Datacom, Shyam Telelink which has partnered with Russian telecom giant Sistema, realty major Unitech, Swan Telecom, B K Modi’s Spice Communications and S Tel.
Shyam Telelink, however, has opted for CDMA spectrum and it has already received it in several circles.
Earlier, the government had indicated that they would start allocating spectrum to new players wherever it is available, while continuing negotiations with the defence ministry for vacation of more spectrum in other states.
According to officials, DoT has divided the country into three categories with circles that have spectrum in abundance, little and no spectrum at all.
The new players, who are in the process of floating a parallel lobby to COAI, have already started putting pressure on the DoT for their rights and with the 4-5 new operators joining the fast growing mobile segment, tariffs may fall further from the existing level.
This, however, may take about 6-9 months as rolling out of network would take time, one of the new licensees said.