Airtel, Vodafone, Idea want part of CDMA spectrum for GSM tech

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have demanded allocation of a part of CDMA spectrum in 800 Mhz band for GSM services.

"We recommend that the 800 MHz spectrum band is harmonised with the international band plan to become part of an "extended" 900 MHz band; this will increase the availability of spectrum in the 900 MHz band by up to 10 MHz (or over 40 per cent)," said a letter written by the three companies to DoT.

The letter is signed by Bharti Airtel CEO (India and South Asia) Sanjay Kapoor, Idea Cellular Managing Director Himanshu Kapania and Vodafone India MD and CEO Marten Pieters.

At present, airwaves frequencies in 900 Mhz band are used for transmitting signals for GSM mobile services.

The reach of signals transmitted in 900 Mhz band is around two-times more than that transmitted in 1,800 Mhz band, for which the government had fixed a base price of Rs 14,000 crore for 5 mhz pan-India spectrum in the recent auction.

Telecom operators prefer 900 Mhz band as they need to deploy less telecom towers compared to that in 1800 Mhz band.

The CDMA spectrum provides more coverage than 900 Mhz band but business eco-system for CDMA business is not well developed compared to GSM services.

The three GSM operators have demanded to earmark airwaves frequencies from 880 Mhz onward for GSM players instead of current practice of allocating it from 890 Mhz onward.

"With the diminishing interest of operators in CDMA and the reducing subscriber base of the technology, we believe that we need to harmonise and reconfigure the existing Indian CDMA band in line with the global practice," the letter said.

The telecom companies added that it will lead to optimum utilisation of 800 Mhz spectrum and "the Government will also be able to generate revenues that were denied due to the absence of bidders for the 800 MHz spectrum during the auctions."

Government had fixed price of 800 Mhz spectrum at 1.3 times higher than that for 1800 Mhz band.

The GSM telecom majors said, "the Reserve Price for this 800 Mhz band is kept at reasonable level in congruence to the market realities and all existing Operators be allowed to bid."

Government may re-auction 800 Mhz band by March 2013.

Immediate comments from Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) that represents CDMA operators were not received.

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