The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Thursday issued long-awaited Letters of Intent (LOI) for new licences to eight aspirants who included both first-time players and old players expanding into new zones amid a chaos caused by impatient applicants saying 'me first'.
"The Government accepted this recommendation of TRAI (of August 2007). Accordingly, DOT has decided to issue LOI to all the eligible applicants on the date of application who applied up to 25-9-2007," said the DoT press release. About 22 applicants qualify on this count.
Those who got the LOI for 22 circles includes property developer Unitech Limited along with its seven subsidiaries, HFCL's sister concern Datacom and Loop Telecom Pvt Limited, an affiliate of the Essar group.
Shyam Telelink received LOI for 21 circles, while Spice Telecom, which had applied for 20 circles, got LOIs for only four circles. DoT had found the company's net worth short of Rs 1680 crore required for pan-India operations.
Idea Cellular received LOIs for 8 circles and S Tel, a Chennai-based consortium, for 6 circles. Tata Teleservices received LOIs for its CDMA operations in 3 more circles where it is not present currently. It also received DoT's permission to run GSM operations under the dual technology clause.
The DoT headquarters at Sanchar Bhavan witnessed chaos as almost all the applicants wanted to collect their offer letters first.
They were apparently restless because of a belief that whosoever deposits the fee will get a priority in getting spectrum from the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of DoT, which is responsible for allocation of spectrum and wireless operating licences. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was rushed in to curb the impatient applicants.
DoT's press release also said that wireless operating licence "is granted on first-come-first served basis subject to availability of spectrum in a particular service area."
However, an industry official said: "All the applicants who deposit the required documents and the fee before the expiry of the 15-day deadline will be treated at par for allocating spectrum, and DoT will arrive at a mechanism to allocate spectrum." According to WPC sources, after allocating spectrum to Aircel for 14 circles, Idea for 2 circles and Vodafone for 6 circles, "not more than one or at the most two aspirants will be able to get the start-up spectrum".