Tatas apply for GSM licence in 22 circles

Tatas apply for GSM licence in 22 circles

The phone services arm of around $21.9 billion (nearly Rs87,162 crore) Tata group, Tata Teleservices Ltd, became the second CDMA operator to apply for a GSM licence on Monday, after rival Reliance Communications Ltd paid Rs1,651 crore on Friday towards licence fee for offering phone services on GSM technology across 22 telecom circles in the country.

“We have already filed our application with the department of telecommunication (DoT), and after receiving a letter of intent, will pay the licence fee," said a Tata Teleservices spokesperson. The GSM push would help Tata take on Reliance and Bharti Airtel Ltd, two of India’s biggest cellular operators.

DoT allowed operators such as Reliance and Tata to offer services using GSM technology, which currently counts three among four wireless customers in a country with about 209 million subscribers.

The GSM subscriber base, growing at more than 4% every month, offers a lucrative opportunity for the Tatas, who, unlike Reliance, do not have any presence in GSM.

Existing GSM players such as Bharti, Vodafone Essar Ltd and Idea Celluar Ltd, which have been waiting for additional radio spectrum to be allocated, are planning to challenge the DoT decision.

T.V. Ramachandran, director general of Cellular Operators’ Association of India, a lobby representing GSM operators in India, said the association would be filing its petition on Tuesday in TDSAT, or telecom disputes settlement and appellate tribunal.

Despite protests from the GSM lobby, CDMA players believe the DoT decision is to ensure a level-playing field for the two competing platforms.