Trai's recommendation against 800 MHz band spectrum auction discriminatory: SSTL

The Indian arm of Russian conglomerate Sistema, Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) has termed Trai's recommendation to not hold any spectrum auction in the 800MHz band as "discriminatory".

According to the CDMA operator that runs services under the MTS brand, Trai's recommendation would limit its expansion plans for India, at a time when it was spreading wings after having invested $3.6 billion in the country. "Trai's recommendation to withhold auction will block all our future investment plans... We feel to be unfairly discriminated by blocking spectrum supply to us," SSTL CEO Dmitry Shukov said in a letter written to Trai chairman Rahul Khullar.

The letter, which TOI had accessed, said Trai's contention that CDMA operators, who operated in the 800MHz band, did not require additional spectrum at the moment and some of this might get converted to an e-GSM band. "...we beg to differ on grounds that we require more spectrum to put our business strategy into action."

According to Shukov, SSTL had bought spectrum in the 800MHz band earlier this year on expectations of getting access to more spectrum in the future.

 "Our decision for investment was based on current and future availability of spectrum in this band... Telecom investments are long-term and need a minimum degree of certainty. But the authority's recommendations to change the band plan within months of auction has triggered ambiguity, which is not conducive to our future investment decisions," Shukov said.

In its recommendations Trai had stated that there was no demand for the CDMA spectrum, except from SSTL, as was seen in the last auction with one operator offering to surrender some its airwaves frequency in the CDMA band, PTI reported

The regulator added that unlike 1800 Mhz band (2G spectrum), government was not bound by the Supreme Court order to auction CDMA radiowaves, recommending that "the auction in the 800 MHz band should not be carried out now", the report said.

In his reply, Shukov pointed out that there was no demand for even premium 2G spectrum in 900 Mhz band but still Trai has recommended its auction at a much lower rate.

"Had reserve price for 800 MHz spectrum band been reasonable, we may have bought more spectrum in 8 circles and participated in auction for remaining 13 circles and continued with Pan India operations," he said in the letter dated 20 September.

Trai had recommended up to 62 per cent lower price for 900 Mhz band spectrum as against the last reserve price.