Mumbai: The government's decision to allot third generation (3G) spectrum to CDMA operators without an auction was against the principles of equity, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has said. The telecom sector regulator also called for a bidding for allocating rare spectrum.
The opposition of the GSM operators to the policy guidelines on the 3G service, announced recently by the department of telecom, has now received TRAI backing with its chairman Nripendra Mishra writing to Telecom secretary that the policy favours one operator with a single 800 MHz slot.
''Since various service providers have been given licences in different service areas at different time periods, TRAI believes that keeping the subscriber base as the criterion for deciding the priority of spectrum allotment shall go against the level-playing field and the principle of equity,'' Mishra said in his letter to DoT secretary S Behurah.
He said the subscriber base depends on factors which vary from market to market and hence cannot be considered as a basis for spectrum allocation.
This 800 MHz band slot - the most efficient and cost-effective frequency for CDMA players to offer high-end services - has been reserved for the largest operator in a circle (meaning Reliance Communications), which has the largest subscriber base in all circles, except Delhi and Maharashtra, at the cost of other CDMA operators, TRAI pointed out.
Other CDMA operators may now have to choose between spectrum available in the 450 MHz or the 1900 MHz band, which is not preferable.
While the DoT allots the single 3G spectrum in the 800 MHz band to Reliance Communications, other operators like Tata Teleservices, BSNL, MTNL and Shyam Telecom will have to wait over a year for the defence forces to free additional frequencies in the same band.
On the other hand, GSM players like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular will have to go through a global auction to get 3G spectrum.
GSM operators say the policy has been designed in such a way that it does not guarantee equity in terms of competitiveness in spectrum auctioning for both GSM and CDMA sectors.