Regulator asks MTNL to hand back CDMA spectrum for redistribution

7 Jun 2006

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has written to state-owned operator Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), asking it to hand back its unused CDMA spectrum so that it may be reallocated to private cellcos. A similar letter is to be sent to MTNL’s sister provider, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), shortly. The DoT’s new spectrum distribution policy was published in March, stating that future frequency allocations will depend on the size of an operator’s subscriber base in any given telecoms circle. The new rules mean that the more subscribers an operator has, the more spectrum it can apply for, subject to availability.

Private CDMA mobile operators Reliance Infocomm and Tata TeleServices have both complained of a shortage of CDMA frequency as they struggle to meet burgeoning demand. The DoT has moved swiftly to show its dedication to enforcing the new rules by beginning the process of removing the unused spectrum held by the state-run operators. ‘There is a surplus of 2.5 MHz of spectrum [held by MTNL and BSNL], as the companies are expected to focus on GSM technologies,’ a government source told the Business Standard. ‘This can be reallocated to other CDMA operators who qualify for it as per the prevailing guidelines.’

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