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GSM players may go with TRAI

The dominant GSM telecom players are likely to soften stand on revised norms of subscriber-based spectrum allocation, reports Arun Kumar.

business Updated: Nov 27, 2007 22:38 IST
Arun Kumar

In an apparent softening of stand, dominant GSM telecom players have expressed their willingness to accept the Telecom Regulating Authority of India's (TRAI’s) recommendations on revised norms of subscriber-based spectrum allocation in which they are locked in a tussle with CDMA-technology-oriented firms.

According to highly placed sources in the government, the Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil B Mittal, in a meeting with the Communication and IT Minister A Raja on November 26 had said that his company 'may accept' the TRAI's new recommendation. However, the modality of the move, whether they will return unutilised spectrum or give a commitment of scaling up the subscriber numbers within a certain time-frame is not yet known.

The sources said that in his presentation on Monday to the committee to recommend revised subscriber linked spectrum allocation criteria to Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani offered to return excess spectrum in Bihar provided that other operators also surrendered extra spectrum in line with the policy framework. Reliance Telecom, an affiliate of the group, operates GSM services in seven circles including Kolkata, while its mainstay is CDMA and it plans to expand GSM services in all areas.

The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), a technical unit functioning under the DoT, had tightened TRAI's initial recommendations. A fresh panel including industry representatives is considering the criteria all over again. As per conservative estimates, under the TRAI recommendations, the dominant players need to return between 9 and 11 MHz, while under TEC's recommendations, operators would have to return around 20 MHz.

Government sources said that Ambani alleged in the meeting that the TEC had diluted criteria of its own draft.

A day after the round-table meeting, Communications and IT Minister Raja also said that he would meet the operators separately to find a solution to the imbroglio. "The interaction is going on," Raja said on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi.

Based on the feedback of the operators and suggestions of technical experts, the committee, headed by R Bandopadhyay, additional secretary, telecom, is expected to submit a final report in the first fortnight of December. The eight member committee includes PK Garg, wireless advisor; Vijay Madan, executive director, Centre for the Development of Telematics; Bhaskar Ramamurthi, IIT, Chennai; and Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi, IIT Kanpur, besides industry representatives representing GSM and CDMA players.