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AT&T, Sterlite join telecom rush

BATTLE FOR SPECTRUM HOTS UP

Bs Reporters  |  New Delhi 

The department has so far received more than 400 applications.
In a major rush to meet the 5 pm deadline set by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) today, over a dozen companies applied for unified access service licence (UASL), mostly for pan-India services, in 22 circles.
Today's applicants include a wide range of companies "" from US giant AT&T to real estate majors, CD maker Moser Baer, optic fibre to aluminum major Sterlite Industries promoted by Anil Aggarwal, Pramod Mittal-promoted steel giant Ispat Industries, and the Hindujas.
With this, DoT has now received over 400 applications for licences, from just 74 five months ago.
AT&T has tied up with Mahindra & Mahindra group company Mahindra Telecommunications Pvt Ltd and applied for a pan-India licence.
AT&T will have a 74 per cent stake while the rest will be with the Mahindras. This marks the start of AT&T's second stint in the wireless space in India after it pulled out of Idea Cellular in 2002.
AT&T is the second foreign company to apply for a pan-India licence after Russian conglomerate Sistema, which bought over Shyam Telelink (which operates telecom services in Rajasthan), and put in an application also today.
Among the real estate applicants today are Delhi-based Omaxe group as well as BPTP and Aunita Properties.
Several lesser-known companies such as IT solutions firms Tulip, Meta Telecom, Prithvi Information Solutions Ltd, Next Generation have also applied amongst others.
Even ByCell, which had applied earlier for UASL licence in only five circles, extended its application for a pan-Indian licence.
DoT had fixed October 1 as the deadline for new applications for UASL licence.
Sources say scrutinising the applications could take two to three weeks, after which DoT will issue letters of intent to eligible players with a condition that they pay the licence fee (around Rs 1,500 crore for a pan-Indian one) within a week. Granting spectrum, however, will be dealt separately based on its availability.
The government is negotiating with the ministry of defence to vacate spectrum and hopes to get around about 25 MHz for current mobile service (known as second-generation of 2G services).
Apart from the new applicants there are over half-a-dozen companies that have already applied for UASL, which permits operators to offer both GSM and CDMA services.
These include Mahendra Nahata-promoted HFCL, Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani group-backed Swan and Cheetah Telecom, real estate developers DLF and Parasvnath, Idea Cellular (which has applied for nine circles) and Spice Telecom (which has applied for 20 circles).
The rush, experts say, is because the telecom market is expected to see big growth and is likely to hit over 500 million subscribers by 2010 and provide a major upside to investors.
CALL OPTIONS
  • The telecom department has so far received more than 400 applications

  • This will be AT&T's second stint in the wireless space in India

  • Sources say scrutinising the applications could take 2-3 weeks
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    First Published: Tue, October 02 2007. 00:00 IST
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