Rival GSM and CDMA operators made rival claims on Wednesday in the war to get wireless spectrum that enables mobile phone services, fearing that a flurry of applications flooding the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) after the recent plan to allow an unlimited number of players will hit their ambitious expansion plans.
Idea Cellular, Aircel and Spice are the prominent operators waiting for spectrum to meet their expansion plans, while operators are also eyeing more spectrum for heavy-duty services such as 3G operations.
GSM operators made a presentation to Communications Minister A Raja to press their case.
"The operators given licences and pending allotment of spectrum should be allotted spectrum by this month under the existing policy," said TV Ramachandran, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Countering COAI's claim for spectrum, CDMA body Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI) representative SC Khanna told the minister, "the presentation made by the COAI was based on the situation prevalent in 2003 and the industry has changed drastically since then."
In September, COAI had also served a legal notice to the Department to Telecommunications (DoT), seeking wireless spectrum which it says it was entitled up to 15 MHz of spectrum under DoT's guidelines of March 2006. But officials say spectrum allocation is linked to specific criteria, and is not unconditional.
COAI also asked for the inclusion of only those players with previous telecom experience, a five-year lock in period and non-violation of 10 per cent promoter crossholding in another operator among the criteria for allocation of licence to new applicants. He also spoke against auction of 2G spectrum.
Looking at the spurt in interest in telecom from a large number of applicants, spectrum has indeed become a key denominator for all, and allocating it while trying to be "honest and transparent" has also become crucial for minister Raja. "There will be three categories, existing licence holders, existing licence holders without spectrum and those who have applied new applications," Raja told reporters. He said he "wants to give a fair hearing to the existing operators as they should not feel aggrieved."
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has on its part has been questioning the efficient utilisation of currently allocated spectrum to operators, and had moved on August 29 to tighten the screws on the industry, linking additional spectrum to higher efficiency of use.