It is like a poker game heading for a show of hands.
Industrialist Anil Ambani has thrown a challenge to his rivals who offer GSM telephony services, asking the government for a “spectrum refarming” policy to bridge gaps between the haves and have-nots of wireless airwaves and offering to return what he says is some excess spectrum from his own Reliance kitty in Bihar, while he awaits more to expand in other areas.
In plain terms, the latest salvo is a daring gambit by the chairman of Reliance Communications to force his rivals to reveal their cards and match his deed while jumping to widen GSM services himself in addition to the CDMA technology-based offering.
At the core of the tussle is the issue of how much of spectrum, a scarce resource, does each player need. While a panel of industry and Department of Telecommunications members examining the criteria linked to subscriber growth is scheduled to meet on Monday, Reliance says incumbent GSM leaders have more than enough, effectively asking the government to force them to spend more to grow subscribers or return what the excess.
In his latest letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dated November 19, Ambani said Reliance Telecom is ready to surrender all GSM spectrum that has been allocated in excess of 6.2 MHz, and urged the PM for a comprehensive policy on spectrum refarming in the 900 MHz and 1800MHz band. “An additional of 1.8 MHz has been received in one circle, namely, Bihar, and we confirm our in-principle willingness to return the same, along with other operators, as part of the comprehensive policy framework,” he said.