Telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja is having difficulty in convincing mobile phone companies operating on the prevalent GSM platform to accept the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's recommendations on spectrum and licensing issues, which include linking the price of 2G wireless spectrum to the faster 3G, and plans to take back spectrum in the 900 MHz band and substitute it with 1,800 MHz band when licences are renewed.
At a meeting held in New Delhi on Wednesday, the leading GSM operators were firmly against the proposals. Market leader Bharti Airtel was the first to go public with its protest today, calling the TRAI recommendations ''lopsided''.
A beleaguered 'Spectrum Raja' has now referred the matter to a nine-member committee set up under the department of telecommunications (DoT), which would decide on all 2G-related matters. The committee's recommendations will be sent to the empowered group of ministers (EGoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, which is likely to take a final call on this issue.
Leading GSM operators say the TRAI recommendations are discriminatory and would affect their profitability. If they were to pay a market-determined fee for airwaves allotted to them years earlier, it could harm a sector that is in the middle of a bruising tariff war.
Bharti, Vodafone and Idea, who operate on the GSM technology platform, would have to pay about Rs10,500 crore as a one-time fee if TRAI's proposals are accepted.
However, companies operating on the CDMA platform and dual licence holders like Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices are all for the new proposals.
During Wednesday's meet, the CDMA companies urged that the government should be more stringent while imposing the one-time fee for all spectrum in excess of 6.2 MHz per circle. AUSPI, the grouping of such companies, asked Raja to ensure that the one-time fee for 'excess' 2G spectrum be four times the cost of 3G airwaves.