Eight apply for spectrum auction; SSTL in row with TRAI over 800MHz restrictions

16 Jan 2014

Newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom arm of petrochemical giant Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has joined seven incumbent providers in registering to participate in the upcoming auction of 1800MHz and 900MHz frequencies, the Economic Times writes. Industry heavyweights Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications (RCOM) – the nation’s four largest cellcos by subscribers – have all reportedly applied to take part in the sale, as have Aircel, Tata TeleServices (TTSL/Tata DOCOMO) and Norwegian-backed Uninor/Telewings. Whilst most operators are looking to expand their existing spectrum holdings, Airtel and Vodafone must repurchase 900MHz frequencies in key circles to continue operating without disruption. The government has set a target of INR113.43 billion (USD1.85 billion) from the auction.

In related news, Russian-backed CDMA operator Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL) has criticised proposals put forward by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to place restrictions on the cellcos bidding in the next auction of 800MHz spectrum. The watchdog suggested it may limit SSTL’s ability to bid for frequencies in the eight circles where it won spectrum in the March 2013 tender, on the basis that the operator had been able to purchase the frequencies at a price that was 50% of the TRAI’s recommended reserve price. The provider called the recommendations ‘unfair’ claiming that they are: ‘inconsistent with [the] valuation methodology for 900MHz/1800MHz which resulted in significant decrease in reserve price.’ SSTL went on to point out that as spectrum in the 800MHz band is non-contiguous, it ‘cannot be used to deploy advanced Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks or CDMA-based EVDO services across frequencies as carrier aggregation beyond certain bandwidth is not possible.’

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