Mobile firms for clear rules before auction

New Delhi, Feb. 8: Telecom players today demanded concrete rules for spectrum sharing and mergers along with the liberalisation of the 800MHz band prior to the auctions in March.

At a pre-bid conference between the industry and the department of telecom (DoT) today, companies sought greater clarifications on the amount of spectrum they could bid for and whether they would get priority at the time of actual allocation.

Existing operators such as Bharti, Vodafone and Idea have to compulsorily bid in the March auctions to renew their permits in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.

Companies also proposed that the DoT should allow them to exchange spectrum blocks so that each operator gets continuous bands of radiowaves.

Spectrum is being sold in pairs of 1.25MHz (for uplink and downlink); if allocation is not continuous, it affects voice and data services.

In November 2011, the telecom regulator had given its recommendations on mergers and spectrum sharing, but no rules have have been framed yet.

Incumbents such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Tata Teleservices as well as Uninor and Sistema-Shyam, whose permits were cancelled by the apex court last year, were present at the conference. However, international firms kept away from the conference, signalling their lack of interest.

Telecom operators also proposed that the 800MHz band be made a part of an "extended" 900MHz band, following global norms.

They feel this will lead to the optimum utilisation of 800MHz spectrum and "the government will also be able to generate revenues that were denied because of the absence of bidders for the 800MHz spectrum during the last auctions".

The move will benefit GSM operators, who have been wanting to use the 800MHz band.

Globally, this "extended band" is used by GSM operators. Countries which use the 800MHz band for 3G and 4G services include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Europe, Brazil and Venezuela.

GSM operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea said they were interested in the 800MHz band to launch 4G LTE (long-term evolution) and 3G services. Experts say the 800MHz spectrum is four to five times more efficient than 2,300MHz (used in India for 4G) and will need far fewer towers.

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