GSM lobby to fight Reliance licence

GSM lobby to fight Reliance licence

A lobby for wireless companies using GSM technology in India says it will mount a legal challenge to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) decision allowing Reliance Communications Ltd to offer mobile phone services on GSM technology.

“Rules have been flouted to suit one company," said T.V. Ramachandran, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India. “We will go to the courts and fight."

On 19 October, DoT said existing licensees would be allowed to offer services using alternative wireless technology for rapid expansion of teledensity. More than 87% of RCom customers are serviced on networks running on rival CDMA technology. CDMA stands for code division multiple access.

Reliance Communications paid Rs1,651 crore to DoT as entry fee for the licence on Friday morning, and has also applied to the wireless planning and coordination unit of the government for spectrum. The application “puts us in the same league as few others who have the licence and are awaiting spectrum", an RCom spokesperson said on Friday.

Telecom operators such as Idea Cellular Ltd, Aircel Ltd and Vodafone Essar Ltd are waiting for more radio spectrum as they seek to expand their networks across the country. Reliance Telecom Ltd, a unit of Reliance Communications, runs a relatively small GSM-based operation—with some 4.34 million customers—in eight of India’s poorest states. Bharti Airtel Ltd, in comparison, has 48.8 million GSM customers.

In a related development, the Press Trust of India reported Sunday, without naming its sources, that the government was contemplating issuing letters of intent to all applicants, asking them to pay a fee of about Rs1,650 crore, to help filter out non-serious players. This could not be independently verified by Mint.

PTI contributed to this story.