New Delhi: The department of telecommunications, or DoT, on Wednesday started issuing new licences to companies wishing to start offering mobile telephony services, such as Datacom Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of consumer goods maker Videocon Industries Ltd.
“Apart from Datacom, which received telecom licences for around 19 service areas (as regions where companies are allowed to operate are known), Idea Cellular and Swan were also issued a licence each today,” confirmed a senior DoT official who did not wish to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Swan refers to Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd, a company controlled by Mumbai-based realtor Dynamix Balwas.
The licences signed on Wednesday do not translate into spectrum rights for the firms. “After signing the licences, these companies will have to file another application with WPC,” said a senior official at DoT’s wireless planning and coordination, or WPC, wing who did not wish to be identified. “Spectrum allocation could take a month or so provided we identify sufficient spectrum in these areas.” Adequate spectrum is available in just four states—Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—today. DoT had accepted applications from nine companies to offer phone services earlier this year.
“We received radio spectrum in Bihar and Mumbai last month, after which we made applications for another nine circles,” said a Idea Cellular Ltd official who did not wish to be identified. “Today, we have signed a licence for the Punjab circle, and would be waiting to hear from DoT on the remaining eight circles.” DoT has approved the application by Idea Cellular to start services in areas such as Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kolkata, Orissa and Tamil Nadu but is yet to sign licences there.
Separately, DoT also approved the application of ByCell Telecommunications India Pvt. Ltd for five areas of Assam, the North-East, West Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. The application by the Indian unit of the Russian firm was held up as the government scrutinized its ownership details. Two DoT officials declined to elaborate whether ByCell would be granted a licence this week.
Telecom analysts such as Prashant Singhal of consultancy firm Ernst and Young said Wednesday’s decisions “will bring at least four-five new operators by the end of this year, or early next year”. He added that the ongoing legal challenges against the government in the Delhi high court and a telecom tribunal could delay the entry of the aspirants into mobile phone services.
DoT secretary Siddhartha Behura had told Mint in a January interview that introduction of fresh competition would be his top priorityin 2008.