They were divided once by technology. Now they are fighting over the fishes and loaves of spectrum — the common highway on which their telecom dreams run.
With the Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI) accusing the telecom regulator of giving benefits to the incumbent service providers by not recommending that they should pay for the excess spectrum from the date of acquiring it, a fresh war of words has started between it and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, the original GSM-based giants, are the leading members in COAI, while Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications (RCOM), which started out with CDMA before becoming players in both CDMA and GSM based services, are active in AUSPI.
“TRAI not mentioning the applicable date as the date of allotment for charging of excess spectrum holding could hugely benefit COAI operators to an extent
of R66,905 crore,” said SC Khanna, secretary-general of AUSPI in a statement.
Khanna said COAI members got lucrative metro zone licences without auctions at cheap prices and also received spectrum in the valuable 900 MHz band while 2001 auction rules mandated allocation only in the 1800 MHz band.
Earlier COAI said the TRAI had created discrimination in favour of dual-technology players, citing the Supreme Court’s orders of February that called decisions taken in 2007 and 2008 as “arbitrary”.
“In spite of this order… TRAI has not included the GSM spectrum (1800 MHz) wrongfully allocated to the dual technology operators,” COAI said in a statement.
GSM players paid only Rs 1,650 crore for spectrum, a fraction of what new operators will have to pay at Rs 18,000 crore, COAI said.