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Panel against allotment of free spectrum

New Delhi, Dec. 18: The panel reviewing spectrum norms wants the government to fix a price for every unit of the scarce resource given to cellular operators.

Operators now get initial spectrum almost free as it comes bundled with the licence, the fee for which is Rs 1,651 crore for pan-India operations.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had earlier suggested that the spectrum fee should be delinked from licences.

The panel also said that the government must take the final decision on the issue of operators returning excess spectrum. CDMA operators have demanded that GSM players holding more than 6.2MHz of spectrum must return the excess amount for distribution among new firms.

Although the government has not taken any decision on the return of spectrum, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said the scarce resource must be used efficiently.

In another observation, the panel upheld the Telecom Engineering Centre’s (TEC) subscriber requirements for extra spectrum. It even said that had the centre taken into account all efficiency parameters, the subscriber requirements would have been higher.

The TEC had raised the subscriber base for the allocation of extra spectrum by 15 times. GSM players’ charge that the requirements were not based on scientific criteria did not find favour with the panel.

It said the formula used to determine the requirements was known to everyone, including operators.

The panel said the TEC’s calculations were generally right and the debate was over the validity of some assumptions. GSM players say the assumptions are not practical, but CDMA operators think otherwise.

The government had formed the panel to review the TEC’s report after pressure from GSM players.

The panel has met thrice and listened to the views of both GSM and CDMA operators but is yet to give its final report.

It is headed by R. Bandyopadhyay who is the additional secretary in the department of telecommunications.

Nokia deal

Infrastructure solutions provider Nokia Siemens Networks has won a three-year contract worth $150 million from GSM player Idea Cellular to build the company’s network in Bihar.

Under the terms of the agreement, Nokia Siemens will supply GSM, general packet radio service (GPRS) and short message service centre equipment.

It will also provide IT management tools for third party products and services.

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