After a brief display of unity among telecom companies, protesting together against the regulator’s spectrum auction recommendations, a war has broken out again among GSM, CDMA and dual technology players on the issue.
The Association of Unified Service Providers of India (Auspi), the lobby group representing Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) telcos such as Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, today said it “strongly condemned” a statement issued by the rival forum, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Yesterday, COAI, on behalf of the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) companies such as Bharti, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, had alleged the Trai auction recommendations were favouring dual technology operators. Most CDMA ones offer GSM services as well, and are classified as dual technology companies.
Auspi said, “Incumbent operator members of COAI obtained for themselves spectrum largesse without any upfront payment in 2003, when no guidelines or licence provision existed for allocation of such excess spectrum.” The Auspi statement listed several other “irregularities” in spectrum allocation to GSM telcos, adding a police case had already been filed on the issue and investigations were on.
While the telecom companies have returned to war over spectrum, a naturally scarce resource that has seen one of the biggest of recent scandals in India, sending a minister, an MP, bureaucrats and industrialists to jail, the government is learnt to have begun the exercise towards an early 2G spectrum auction.
Following the Trai recommendations, issued on Monday, all telcos, including the lobby groups, in a show of bonhomie criticised the “steep” reserve price set for the 2G auction, noting everyone in the industry would be hit by the new norms. However, things seem to have changed within days.
It is learnt the Telecom Commission, the highest decision making body in the department of telecom (DoT), is slated to meet on Monday to consider the Trai recommendations on the auction.
The DoT decision is likely to be sent back to Trai in the first week of May, after which the regulator would give its final recommendation on the matter. The Empowered Group of Ministers would meet in May itself to give an official seal to the auction process.
While the Trai recommendation came in for criticism for fixing a high reserve for the auction, the Supreme Court has extended the time by which the bidding process is to be completed. The apex court wants the auction over by August 31, extending its earlier deadline of June 2.