GSM lobby challenges new spectrum policy

GSM lobby challenges new spectrum policy

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the lobby group representing telcos offering mobile telephony services on the dominant GSM technology platform, has questioned the government’s decision to allow firms offering mobile telephony services on one technology platform to do so on the competing technology platform too.

COAI has said the move was targeted at benefiting Reliance Communications Ltd, which is the largest CDMA mobile telephony firm in the country. CDMA, short for code division multiple access, is a rival technology to GSM.

In a filing to telecom dispute settlement tribunal TDSAT, COAI said: “Crossover allocation of spectrum is not permissible under the existing policy and licensing regime and the policy change has been carried out in a covert and legally malafide manner." In its filing, the lobby group said the policy regarding this had been implemented and acted upon on 18 October even though it was announced a day later. The “in-principle" approval was given by DoT to select operators after “office hours, well before the policy change was made known to public," the filing said.

COAI director general T.V. Ramachandran declined to comment on the filing.

In October, COAI had challenged the government’s policy in a case filed before the tribunal. The department of telecommunications filed an affidavit last week that said the dual technology issue could not be challenged before the tribunal because it had to do with policy.

In its filing responding to this affidavit, COAI said it appeared that “one particular company (Reliance) was in position to expedite and make payment of over Rs1,650 crore overnight to act upon the in-principle approval and thus seal its position in the priority queue for spectrum." COAI’s reply comes on the eve of telecom secretary D.S. Mathur’s meeting with chief executives of several telcos in an attempt to resolve the tangle.