The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has rejected a demand by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that 4G operators such as Reliance Industries (RIL) that hold internet service provider (ISP) licences should not be allowed to offer voice.
The Telecom Commission recently allowed 4G operators to offer voice services by paying a fee of Rs. 1,658 crore.
Telecom secretary R Chandrashekhar told HT that Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum holders acquired the spectrum through an auction in 2010. “Terms of the auction were that the spectrum can be used for any technology and any services as per licences. The new entities that won spectrum had an option to acquire unified access service licence and offer voice. Hence, what Telecom Commission has approved is as per the terms and conditions of auction.”
The BWA spectrum auction was held in 2010 when A Raja was the communications and IT minister. Since he stopped issuing unified access service licences (UASL), these companies could not acquire UASL licences then.
Chandrashekhar also clarified that the government will not issue any extra spectrum along with licences to these operators.
The recent representation from the industry body seems to be making a case for allowing cellular operators to offer 3G services even in those circles where they do not have spectrum through roaming agreements among themselves as a trade off, an DoT official said.
COAI officials disagreed.
The matter is currently in the court and the DoT has asked operators to stop 3G services where they do not have spectrum.
“The entry of BWA licence holders in the voice segment will increase competition in the market and prices will come down. This is probably a fear factor among cellular operators,” said another official.