Industrialist Anil Ambani has turned the tables in a war for wireless spectrum between his Reliance Communications and GSM-based players like Airtel and Vodafone by alleging that a few large GSM-based mobile phone service firms are hoarding spectrum that they must return to the government because they are not using it.
Ambani, whose CDMA-technology-dominated firm is now expanding in the GSM space, sustained pressure by asking for more competition and new entrants – who would also need spectrum – in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He charge that GSM incumbents had got spectrum free of cost, throwing a regulatory challenge to rival Vodafone headed by Arun Sarin and Bharti Airtel, headed by Sunil Mittal, who are asking for more spectrum. A DoT panel that includes private sector members is going into the issue.
“The GSM players has got far in excess of 6.2 MHz, they were entitled under their licences. This has enabled them to avoid capital expenditure of an estimated over Rs 20,000 crore, generate abnormal profits for themselves and to deprive the government of revenues,” Ambani said in the letter made available to the media.
Earlier, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal, Vodafone chief executive officer Arun Sarin and other GSM players had written letters to the government questioning the new formula of enhanced subscriber-linked spectrum allocation criteria, prescribed by the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), which comes under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Under the rules, fresh spectrum is to be given only if the existing spectrum is efficiently used up. Ambani said there was no data to show that GSM players had met the criteria for more spectrum.
“In line with global practice, there is a strong case for the DoT to now demand the surrender of excess spectrum wrongfully being enjoyed by these existing GSM players, far in excess of their needs and far beyond anything they were entitled to enjoy as per their original licence conditions,” he said, and added that there were precedents of HFCL and Bharti returning spectrums in the past.
Contrary to the perception that dual technology approvals have been granted only to Reliance, the fact is that the Department of Telecom (DoT) gave a go head to all three operators who have applied for the same, Ambani said.