The signals became clearer on Wednesday in the war for telecom spectrum with the industry tribunal and the prime minister both indicating that the stage was set for a virtual free-for-all in the telecom industry.
Customers can expect a crowded market and cut-throat competition.
Justice Arun Kumar of industry tribunal TDSAT refused to stay the allocation of spectrum to those licence-holders waiting in a queue since December 2006, while Dr. Manmohan Singh said he wanted a fair, transparent, equitable and forward-looking spectrum policy.
“It should not create entry barriers to newcomers or barriers to the continued growth of the important sector. At the same time, the revenue potential to the government must not be lost sight of,” Singh told the Telecom India industry conference organized by industry chamber FICCI.
GSM incumbents have been offering higher prices for spectrum.
Singh said he had asked the Group of Ministers working on the release of spectrum by defence authorities to speed up a roadmap for spectrum.
As many as 46 applicants are in the queue for all-India telecom licences under a policy ushered in last August.
While hearing the petition of Cellular Operator’s Association of India against the Department of Telecommunications on spectrum allocation and allotment to both CDMA and GSM technology players on Monday, Solicitor-General GE Vahanvati told TDSAT judge Kumar that the government will soon allocate start-up spectrum to all those who have applied since December 2006.
The decision benefits Idea Cellular, Aircel and Vodafone Essar, who had paid the required fee and were in the queue for spectrum in two, 14 and 6 circles respectively since December 2006.
Vahanvati also said that Reliance Communications, HFCL and Shyam Telecom which had applied for GSM spectrum on October 19 under a dual technology mode will also be given spectrum.
Meanwhile, Communications Minister A. Raja ruled out auctioning 2G spectrum to the new players, so as to maintain a level-playing field.