Govt accepts subscribers base criterion for spectrum award

Govt accepts subscribers base criterion for spectrum award

New Delhi: Government today approved increase in subscribers base, recommended by telecom regulator Trai, as a basis for further allocation of spectrum, a decision that may badly hit the existing GSM players like Bharti, Vodafone Essar and Idea.

Government has accepted the Trai’s recommendations of enhanced subscriber-linked criterion for frequency allocation and has set up a committee in Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) to “further" study and submit a report, Department of Telecom said.

DoT has also said that there would be no cap on number of players in each circle in order to ensure rapid expansion of telecom services both in urban and rural areas, aimed at providing equal opportunities and level-playing field to all players.

With this decision, it may become difficult for existing GSM players to get additional spectrum for further expansion as the DoT has raised the subscribers base to nearly five times.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had earlier served a legal notice to DoT for delay in allocating additional spectrum and had also opposed the criteria recommended by Trai.

COAI had said that the new criterion was untenable and would not stand legal scrutiny and had demanded that operators which had applied for additional spectrum till December last year should be treated as per the existing guidelines.

DoT has also said that spectrum enhancement charges would be levied in addition to annual charges based on revenue share to licensees getting beyond 10 MHz for GSM and 5 MHz for CDMA players.

For each additional MHz or part thereof, DoT has fixed additional charges at Rs16 crore for metros and category ‘A´ circles, Rs8 crore for category ‘B´ and Rs3 crore for category ‘C´ circles.

“It has also been decided that the existing Unified Access Services (UAS) licensees may be permitted to expand their existing networks by using alternate wireless technologies," DoT said in a release.

This means the present operator which is using GSM technology for wireless access may be permitted to use CDMA technology and vice-versa.

“The spectrum for the alternate technology, CDMA or GSM (as the case may be), shall be allocated in the applicable frequency band subject to availability after payment of prescribed fee," it said.

COAI, the lobby of existing GSM players, had yesterday asked DoT not to consider crossover allocation of spectrum to any player as it was not permissible under the present policy and license regime.

In a letter to telecom secretary, COAI had said, “Without prejudice to our submissions that such crossover/dual allocation of spectrum cannot and should not be permitted, it is submitted that even if the same were to be allowed, it can only be done through change in both policy as well as license as also after following process of law."

COAI has decided to challenge the decision of DoT to permit dual technology for mobile operations.

On the issue of mergers and acquisition, DoT has said separate guidelines shall be issued in due course of time after taking views of all the stakeholders.