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Qualcomm gets BWA licence after 2-yr wait

DoT official says spectrum will be allotted once the company makes an application

Mansi Taneja  |  New Delhi 

After an 18-month delay, the department of telecommunications (DoT) has issued an internet service provider (ISP) licence to US-based chipmaker Qualco-mm, which will pave the way for the company to go ahead with the launch of broadband wireless access (BWA) services.

Qualcomm had won BWA spectrum in four circles — Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala — for about Rs 4,900 crore in the auction held by the government in June 2010.

A senior DoT official confirmed the licence had been issued to Qualcomm and spectrum would be allotted as soon as the company applied. The decision came after the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order, earlier this month, had directed DoT to award the licence and allot spectrum within a week of Qualcomm paying the dues of its Indian partner, Tulip Telecom.

The journey of US chip-maker Qualcomm in its quest to get a licence to begin 4G operations in India
June 2010: Qualcomm emerges winner in 4 circles in BWA* auction 
Aug 2010: Qualcomm’s four nominees apply to DoT 
Nov- Dec 2010: DoT asks for certain details, Qualcomm replies
Sep 2011: DoT rejects Qualcomm’s application saying only one ISP** licence can be issued, not four and saying company did not apply in the 3-month window period 
Sep 2011: Qualcomm says willing to have one ISP licence 
Oct 2011: Qualcomm moves TDSAT 
Oct-Nov 2011: DoT agrees to give one ISP licence, raises demand of dues of about Rs 146 cr from Tulip Telecom, an Indian partner of Qualcomm
Jan 2012: Qualcomm offers to pay dues of Tulip 
Feb 2012: DoT raises demand of further dues of Rs 264 cr from Tulip, accepts Qualcomm’s offer to pay dues
Feb 2012: TDSAT asks DoT to issue licence to Qualcomm within a week of paying dues and grant spectrum
Mar 2012: Qualcomm pays dues of Rs 410 cr. DoT issues licence
*BWA: broadband wireless access; **ISP: internet service provider

Qualcomm also confirmed receiving the licence.

Earlier, DoT had rejected Qualcomm’s application, saying the company had made four nominees instead of one. The company had later made one nominee but DoT then demanded dues from Tulip, which again held up the application. The US company had challenged the rejection of its application in TDSAT.

In TDSAT, Qualcomm had offered to pay the dues of Tulip of Rs 410 crore, which was accepted by DoT. The tribunal then directed Qualcomm to deposit Rs 410 crore as demanded by DoT from Tulip, within four weeks and Qualcomm depo-sited the money on March 7. TDSAT then asked the DoT to grant the licence to Qualcomm within a week from the date of deposit of the dues.

Tulip holds a 13 per cent stake in the consortium which had bid for BWA spectrum along with Qualcomm. It is expected the companies will launch BWA services (or 4G services) by the end of this year. The 4G services will offer much faster data speed than 3G. The other companies which had won BWA spectrum in the auction included Bharti Airtel, Reliance Industries (after acquiring Infotel Broadband) and Aircel. Only Reliance Industries has a pan-India licence for offering BWA services.

The government is planning a second round of BWA auction by the end of this year. The ministry of information and broadcasting has agreed to release spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which will be auctioned by DoT for 4G services. In the BWA auction in 2010, the government had earned revenues of about Rs 38,000 crore.

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First Published: Fri, March 16 2012. 01:31 IST