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Govt gives telecom rules a Trai

New Delhi, Oct. 19: The department of telecom (DoT) today accepted most of the proposals made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on licensing norms.

It allowed unlimited entry of telecom operators in a circle, increased subscriber requirement for existing operators seeking extra spectrum and permitted an operator to offer both GSM and CDMA services.

The decision on subscriber requirement will make it difficult for Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Reliance Communications to get additional spectrum, unless they double their subscriber base by two to six times, depending on the circle. None of these operators has the requisite number of subscribers that will make them eligible for extra spectrum.

A final call on the proposals, followed by notification procedures, will be taken only after the telecom engineering centre (TEC) — the technical arm of DoT — gives its report.

Officials said it was necessary to tighten the norms for extra spectrum as this would force operators to efficiently use their existing quota.

In addition, to the subscriber requirement, existing players will have to pay more for extra spectrum, over and above what is paid to the government based on the revenue-sharing principle.

GSM operators will pay if extra spectrum takes their total holdings to more than 10MHz. For CDMA players, this is 5MHz. For each additional MHz, the rate is Rs 16 crore for the metros and category ‘A’ circles, Rs 8 crore for category ‘B’ and Rs 3 crore for category ‘C’ circles.

For an operator keen on offering both GSM and CDMA services, the DoT has said spectrum will be given subject to availability after payment of a fee.

On mergers and acquisitions, the DoT said separate guidelines would be issued after taking the views of all stakeholders.

GSM grudge

The decision on dual technology and the stringent norms for extra spectrum have irked the GSM players, with Kumar Mangalam Birla spearheading the protest.

Birla, whose company Idea offers GSM services, is understood to have written a strongly-worded letter seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (Coai), the representative body of GSM players, also said it would challenge the government’s decision to allow CDMA players offer GSM services.

Coai had earlier served a legal notice to the DoT for delay in spectrum allocation.

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