In a development that could help Anil Ambani-led RCom get additional GSM frequency in most circles, including Delhi, the Telecom Ministry is likely to prioritise operators with start-up spectrum and the required subscriber base for the allocation of unutilised radio waves.
"... The GSM licencees who have received the initial start-up spectrum of 4.4 Mhz and meet the eligibility conditions for grant of additional spectrum up to 6.2 Mhz may be given top priority, as this is the assured quantum of spectrum as per the Licence Agreement and also their vested right," the Legal Advisor, Department of Telecom (DoT), has opined.
RCom, which was offering CDMA mobile services, was also allowed to offer GSM-based mobile services in 2007 after the government approved a dual technology policy.
The DoT recommendation, if accepted, could put some telecom players at a disadvantage, as they have been denied even start-up spectrum in several places.
Tata Teleservices, which was also given a dual technology licence to offer GSM-based services, is still waiting to get start-up spectrum in the most lucrative circle of Delhi and several other districts of various circles.
RCom officials confirmed that they have applied for additional GSM spectrum in most circles, including Delhi, as they crossed the required subscriber base last year itself.
As far as the Delhi service area is concerned, only 3.6 MHz of spectrum is available, which means that no operator will be able to secure the initial start-up spectrum of 4.4 MHz required to operate in the circle. Instead, the spectrum available in Delhi will be utilised as additional spectrum by players that already have start-up spectrum.
RCom was the only operator besides Swan Telecom to get start-up spectrum in Delhi in the latest round of distribution of new telecom and dual technology licences in January, 2008.
The Tatas have written to the DoT repeatedly that they should be given start-up spectrum in Delhi. The Tatas feel that start-up spectrum should be taken back from operators that have failed to start services even after being allocated GSM spectrum nearly 30 months ago.
According to sources, the DoT has received several applications from new operators as well as incumbents for the grant of additional spectrum based on their subscriber base, but no decision has been taken yet.
Telecom regulator TRAI, however, had recently recommended that operators with 6.2 MHz of spectrum should be considered first for allocation of additional spectrum, as they have already made an investment to roll-out their networks.