New Delhi: India’s new telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura said on Monday that ongoing legal wrangles between phone service firms such as Bharti Airtel Ltd and the government will not deter the department of telecommunications, or DoT, from issuing new telecom licences, apart from allotting radio spectrum to companies that want to offer services using networks running on the popular GSM standard.
“We are going to issue letter of intent within a month apart from allocating spectrum to the eligible players under dual-technology,” Behura, who took over from outgoing secretary D.S. Mathur on 1 January, told Mint on Monday. “We want fresh competition to be brought in the sector this year itself, and their applications will not take a back seat.”
Under the dual-technology regime, firms such as Reliance Communications Ltd, or RCom, which run CDMA (short for code division multiple access) networks, want to move into GSM services. Separately, DoT has received 46 applications to start or expand phone services in the country.
Taking charge: Telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura . (Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint )
The Cellular Operators Association of India, a lobby representing GSM firms, has filed petitions before a telecom appellate tribunal and the Delhi high court, challenging any move by the government to allocate spectrum under the dual-technology clause.
On the issue of allocating radio spectrum to existing phone firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar Ltd, the government will follow new tightened subscriber norms suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the secretary said. “When you already have a subscriber-linked criteria for allocating spectrum, how can you talk of auctioning spectrum?” Behura asked. Also, he pointed out, at least one firm has paid Rs1,650 crore in licence entry fee.
Behura said bringing normalcy in the telecom sector would be his top priority. “I would like to get back with routine business and sort out other issues, including how and when to auction 3G spectrum,” he added.