In the latest episode in the war of mobile phone technologies, the government says it is not being biased towards either CDMA or GSM technology in levying annual usage charges for the wireless spectrum that the two technologies use.
But then, it so happens that GSM players more for the same amount of spectrum than CDMA firms do.
The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology used by Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications is a rival to the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications technology used by Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea and Hutchison Essar, but the manner in which the government charges for its spectrum made the GSM-driven Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) cry foul.
But the Communications Ministry has simply turned down the COAI's charge.
Responding to the allegation of COAI, the assistant wireless advisor D Jha, in a letter written last week to the association said, "The service licence is technology neutral. If some technology can allow greater traffic capacity/subscribers, then it means that it offers greater spectrum efficiency and should be encouraged."
At the crux of the issue is that CDMA operators use the same amount of spectrum to service more subscribers than GSM players do, while the government's annual usage charges for spectrum are recovered on a revenue share basis from mobile operators. The revenues of the operators are directly linked to the number of subscribers a service provider has.
COAI in its letter to Wireless Advisor PK Garg, WPC in September had said, "In the present regime, there is a huge anomaly as the same revenues (number of subscribers) attract a different rate of tax (spectrum usage charge) in the hands of GSM and CDMA operators."
TV Ramachandran, director-general COAI in his September letter had said that for the same subscriber base of about 10 lakh (equivalent revenues) the GSM operators pay double the usage charges paid by their counterparts in CDMA.
The Wireless Planning Commission (WPC) under the Communications Ministry said spectrum charges are levied on an equal basis based on subscribers and revenues, but a more efficient technology had to be encouraged.