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Trai asks telcos how much CDMA spectrum to auction, at what price

The tug of war between the Department of Telecom and regulator Trai seems to have been temporarily halted since the regulator today came out with a detailed consultation paper for auction of CDMA spectrum or airwaves in the 800 mhz band. Showing urgency in the matter, Trai has sought comments from stakeholders by January 15. CDMA auctions became a contentious issue between DoT and Trai since the regulator found no value in auctioning CDMA airwaves - terming it a dying technology - whereas DoT has repeatedly said auctions should be held.

 Trai asks telcos how much CDMA spectrum to auction, at what price

Representational image. Reuters

Now that the regulator has finally begun a fresh consultation process for 800 mhz airwaves, there may be some hope for telecom companies like Sistema Shyam which have been protesting the delay in auctions. Sistema is keen to expand its data services and wants more spectrum in this band to do so.

The urgency shown by Trai could mean there is a slim chance that CDMA auctions will be doneeither along with those of 2G auctions scheduled for February or immediately thereafter. The DoT is moving ahead with plans to auction airwaves in two frequencies - 1800 mhz and 900 mhz - which are both used for 2G services in early February.

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 so 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 Telecom Commission 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.

In its consultation paper on CDMA spectrum, Trai has sought stakeholder views on how much spectrum in 800 mhz band should be offered, in what block size and whether its value be derived on the basis of 1800 mhz spectrum (that was the methodology used in earlier auctions). Trai also wants views on whether this value of this spectrum should be based upon the potential growth in data services.

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.

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Updated Date: Dec 21, 2014 01:25:39 IST