The Tatas hit out at the GSM lobby on Tuesday, accusing it of dubious conduct in offering more money for spectrum, while indications were strong that the incumbents were ready for an auction.
In another development, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) began a last level of screening to issue licences to new applicants.
Bharti Airtel’s letter written to the DoT secretary D.S. Mathur on Monday in which the company offered RS. 2,650 crore for additional pan-India spectrum signalled a willingness for an auction to expand 2G services.
“We would like to reserve the right to increase this bid in the event of an auction for such a pan-India GSM spectrum allocation and further this may be taken as our initial bid for the start-up pan-India spectrum”, wrote Akhil Gupta, Joint Managing Director of Bharti Airtel.
Industry sources say that Idea Cellular has also written a similar letter to the DoT secretary asking for additional 2G spectrum for the circles in which it is already present. The sources also that Vodafone Essar is also likely to write a similar letter to the DoT. Both players offered prices comparable with that offered by Bharti, the sources said. Thus far, all but Tata Teleservices have opposed auctions for 2G spectrum. Tata Tele on Tuesday dubbed as “anti-competitive” Bharti’s offer, suggesting a pre-emptive attempt to hoard scarce spectrum.
"Bharti's offer wipes away all that they had been advocating as principle stand," a TTSL spokesperson was quoted by PTI as saying. The GSM player's offer was a "pittance against the gains that they make every year,” he said.
"The offer of Bharti now confirms that they have been hoarding spectrum beyond contracted amount and because of their guilt conscious. The said amount is now being offered as pittance against the gains that they make every year," the TTSL spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the 46-telecom aspirants waiting to hear from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are seeing some light at the end of their tunnel.
Government sources say that the DoT may be giving away the letter of Intent leading to a Universal Access Service Licence after three days. But there may not be good news for all the applicants. Sources also sad that DoT has sought some more clarifications from 22 companies and licences will be subject to the clearance.