Question mark over CDMA auctions in January

New Delhi:Telecom operators offering CDMA services may be in for a rude shock as any chance of getting more spectrum in the upcoming auctions may be remote now. In a letter dated November 14, sector regulator TRAI has told the Government it cannot give recommendations on pricing of CDMA spectrum within the next 15 days. Since auctions for 2G airwaves are slated for January next year, this could well mean auctions for 800 mhz band may be in jeopardy.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is moving ahead with plans to auction airwaves in two frequencies - 1800 mhz and 900 mhz - which are both used for 2G services this January and wanted to also conduct auctions for 800 mhz simultaneously. But now that the regulator seems adamant in not submitting its price recommendations in time, how can CDMA auctions take place?

Top sources in DoT confirmed that TRAI has expressed its inability to give pricing recommendations for 800 mhz band in the next 15 days but added "we cannot say for sure whether this means no auction of 800 mhz will happen in January. It is possible that the Empowered Group of Ministers still decides to hold the auctions".

 Question mark over CDMA auctions in January

Representational Image. Reuters

EGoM is slated to meet on November 22 to consider a range of spectrum issues including pricing for the three spectrum bands. These sources said it is possible that EGoM will take a call om pricing of 800 spectrum itself, without waiting for TRAI's recommendations.

In its letter to DoT, which was reviewed by Firstpost, Secretary to TRAI Rajeev Agrawal has said it has already given its views on the issue (pricing of 800 mhz spectrum) twice and the DoT will have to now send a fresh reference if it wants recommendations on 800 mhz spectrum band.

"The Authority notes with concern that there is suggested time limit, albeit as a preference. There is no provision in the TRAI Act which enables the stipulation of time limits. There is also no provision which allows for a preference on time limits to be indicated by the DoT.....unless it is clarified that this request for recommendation is indeed a fresh and new reference, then and then alone can TRAI initiate action in the matter," Agrawal said.

Last week, the Telecom Commission had told the telecom regulator to recommend the reserve price for the 800 MHz band within 15 days.

From the very beginning of the consultation process for fresh spectrum auctions, TRAI has been against any auctions at all in the 800 mhz band. Its view has been that no auctions are needed and some part of 800 mhz band be adjusted do that 2G GSM services can instead be offered within an extended GSM band.

CDMA operators like Sistema Shyam, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices use the 800 mhz band to offer services at present. The TC has already rejected creation of any EGSM band and instead wants auctions to be held so that these operators can bid for more blocks of CDMA spectrum. So will the EGoM now take a call on 800 mhz pricing on its own? In the last round of spectrum auctions in March, only Sistema came forward for buying CDMA spectrum - no other telco placed a bid for either GSM or CDMA airwaves.

Updated Date: Dec 21, 2014 00:07:32 IST