As if 10 telecom operators in a circle were not enough, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced that successful bidders in the 3G (third generation) telephony auctions next month will be eligible for 2G spectrum — -throwing a potential challenge to incumbents.
However, the number per circle will increase only if the 3G winner is other than the existing players or licencees. The current players include those who came under the GSM and CDMA technology regime and four other entrants per circle under the universal access service licence (UASL) policy.
In a pre-bid conference on the auctioning of 3G and broadband wireless access spectrum on Tuesday, the Telecom Commission’s member (finance), R. Ashok, said a 3G bidder will get 2G spectrum only after the needs of existing players are met. It is not yet clear what will happen to the existing queue of new applicants for 2G spectrum.
“We are satisfied with the pre-bid conference and the bidding process that DoT is following. We agree that the new 3G players should be eligible for 2G spectrum only after the need of the existing players is met,” said TV Ramachandran, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India.
There are about 342 applications for UASL licence in various circles. The licences are issued on a ‘first-come, first served’ basis. This seniority on the basis of the date of application is also followed for issuing start-up spectrum for 2G services.
Under the existing system, UASL holders are entitled for a start-up spectrum of 4.4 MHz in the 2G band. If the new entrants are issued 2G spectrum on a priority basis, existing applicants may raise a hue and cry.