CDMA body opposes GSM proposal for spectrum shift

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Telecom operators from CDMA lobby have opposed the demand made by GSM players like Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone for 10 mhz CDMA spectrum in the 800 mhz band to provide GSM services.

CDMA industry body, Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (Auspi) has asked telecom minister Kapil Sibal to reject the GSM players’ plea.

Top honchos of largest GSM operators - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular had written to the telecom department last month asking that the GSM band start from 880 mhz instead of the 890 mhz at present.

If implemented, this ‘extended 900 mhz band’ would have increased availability of airwaves in that band by as much as 40 per cent, a practice GSM operators claimed would be in line with international best practices.

Telecom department is yet to take a stand on the issue. Senior telecom department officials said that harmonisation of spectrum had not been taken up by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) at its last meeting on December 7.

CDMA and GSM technology players’ letters reflect the deep polarisation in the industry. One of the arguments made by GSM operators in favour of harmonisation was the low demand for CDMA spectrum with no operator bidding in the 800 mhz band.

Terming the GSM operators’ letter as a brazen attempt to “throttle the growth of CDMA technology”, Auspi in its letter indicated that this was not the first time GSM operators had made such demands.

It said that GSM industry body, cellular operators association of India (Coai) had earlier suggested “co-existence” of the 1900 Mhz and 2100 mhz bands after Trai had recommended the former as the growth path for CDMA.

Alleging that GSM operators were “misleading” and “misrepresenting facts”, Auspi in its letter said that additional spectrum in CDMA bands - 800 mhz, 450 mhz and 1900 mhz bands would be required if existing CDMA players like Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communication and MTNL/BSNL were to offer services to its growing customer base.

Further, Auspi raised the issue of spectrum available to CDMA operators and contrasted it with the ‘excess spectrum’ allotted to GSM operators. “Our member operators are entitled to receive only 5 mhz of spectrum under UAS License and actual allotment is below contracted spectrum in many circles,” said the letter adding that GSM operators were allotted spectrum in excess of the contracted 6.2 mhz.

Claiming that the dominant incumbent GSM operators had followed unethical practices for sustained dominant position, Auspi urged the telecom minister to “ignore and reject their submission altogether.”

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