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Anil meets Raja, R-Com sends notice

New Delhi, Dec. 27: Reliance Communications’ chief Anil Ambani today met telecom minister A. Raja to lobby for the allocation of start-up spectrum to new companies entering the GSM space. At the same time, R-Com served a legal notice on the department of telecom (DoT) seeking to stop it from allotting additional air waves to rivals such as Vodafone and Bharti Airtel.

India allows companies to offer mobile connections using either GSM or CDMA technologies. It recently allowed telecom companies to offer both technology platforms to subscribers.

Reliance aims to garner more spectrum by taking advantage of this permission.

In its legal notice, Reliance Communications (R-Com) said the “allocation of spectrum beyond licence mandated 4.4 or 6.2MHz is arbitrary, illegal and in violation of the licence agreements”.

“R-Com is trying to imply that while CDMA players entering the GSM arena should be granted start-up spectrum, existing GSM mobile operators should not be allocated any spectrum in the short term,” said analysts.

Meanwhile, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) wrote to telecom secretary D.S. Mathur urging the immediate allocation of start-up spectrum to Idea, Aircel and Spice which have been waiting to launch services in various circles since December 2006.

At the same time, the COAI urged the government to consider applications for additional airwaves by mobile operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, prior to the acceptance of new Trai norms, according to current subscriber base allocation norms.

“All applications of existing GSM licence holders pending additional spectrum allotment … must be honoured according to their eligibility under the criteria that was applicable when these applications were made, that is, the criteria of March 29, 2006,” said T.V. Ramachandran, director-general of the COAI.

This caveat implies that the COAI still opposes bringing in new norms while deciding on the allocation of spectrum to existing GSM players.

R-Com, on the other hand, is seeking exactly the opposite. It asked the DoT to “immediately demand return of over 50MHz excess spectrum being hoarded by existing GSM operators, in excess of licence mandated amount of 4.4 or 6.2Mhz.”

The DoT should also charge an additional spectrum fee, from the date of the issue of spectrum until excess spectrum is returned by GSM mobile operators, R-Com said.

The battle between R-Com and the GSM operators is, thus, no longer over the allocation of spectrum to newcomers but rather over the allocation of additional spectrum to existing players.

In a note to the Telecom Commission, Raja said, “Since it has been decided to accept the Trai subscriber base for allocation of additional spectrum, a decision needs to be taken on spectrum charges.”

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