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After Reliance, Tatas apply for GSM spectrum

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

The Tata group, which operates CDMA- mobile phone services, has applied for GSM spectrum in 20 circles.
The application was made today through two Tata-promoted companies "" Tata Teleservices Ltd, which has applied for spectrum in 18 circles, and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd, which runs CDMA services in Maharashtra and Mumbai.
The Tata application follows permission from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) last week for operators to receive dual spectrum "" radio frequencies that enable mobile services "" on the same licence for both CDMA and GSM services.
This means that operators like the Tata group will be eligible for spectrum for GSM on its existing licence but for that it will have to pay roughly Rs 1,680 crore for pan-Indian operations.
CDMA (or Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global Services for Mobile Communication) services cannot share spectrum since both require different bandwidths, which is why CDMA operators need to apply separately for GSM spectrum.
CDMA giant Reliance Communications (R-Com), which had applied for GSM spectrum in January 2006, paid the licence fee last week and is awaiting allocation of the initial 4.4 Mhz of spectrum.
Sources, however, said there was no clarity on how the Tata application would be assessed in terms of priority.
If the group is treated as an existing operator seeking dual spectrum, it should be on a par with R-Com.
Accordingly, it would be ahead of over 40 applicants for new licences as well as existing operators seeking licences for expansion in new circles.
This would place the Tata group between number two and number four in the queue for spectrum allocation in most of the circles for which it has applied, just behind R-Com.
However, if DoT follows its "first-come first-served" policy, the Tata group will be at the end of the queue as the last applicant for spectrum.
"We look forward to a level playing field in the industry and await clarity on all aspects of this new announcement from the authorities," a TTSL spokesperson said.
COAI to move TDSAT
The Cellular Operators Association of India, a lobby group of GSM players, will approach the TDSAT on Tuesday challenging the government's new policy that allows CDMA service providers' entry into the GSM segment by "twisting the rules to benefit one operator".
The COAI is also expected to challenge the government on numerous other issues such as accepting a hike in the subscriber base criterion "" as suggested by the regulator "" for additional allocation of spectrum to existing operators.
The move would virtually deprive most operators from receiving any additional allocation until they substantially increase their subscriber numbers.
"We are planning to go to the TDSAT on Tuesday on the stand that the DoT decision is bad in law," said T V Ramachandran, director-general of the COAI.

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First Published: Tue, October 23 2007. 00:00 IST