Centre should make the 900 Mhz spectrum available to everyone: Srinath

Tata Teleservices supports the government proposal to ‘re-farm' spectrum in the 900 megahertz (Mhz) band which it expects will create a level-playing field between the older Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) operators and newer ones.

Speaking to this correspondent, N. Srinath, Managing Director, Tata Teleservices (TTSL) said, “There is a fair amount of mismatch between players in the Indian telecom industry which is the fall-out of the fact that there is no level-playing field.”

As per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations, re-farming of spectrum involves replacing the 900 Mhz spectrum band by the 1,800 Mhz band and a re-auctioning of spectrum in the 900 Mhz band when existing licences come up for renewal in 2014.

To create a level-playing field, Mr. Srinath said, the government should make the 900 Mhz spectrum available to everyone. “Otherwise, stop creating competition. If you are creating seven players per circle and give 900 Mhz spectrum to only three, others should be told they are not wanted.”

Mr. Srinath felt that besides the 900 Mhz spectrum, re-farming should happen for 800 Mhz, too, where TTSL was present, “but give us a band to move our customers. Today, even after 15 years, I do not have an alternative band. Other GSM players have the benefit of 1,800 Mhz for a decade and can move to a new spectrum far easier than us. Our consumers should not have to pay a price for this.”

Tata Teleservices, with more than 80 million customers, is present across all 22 circles in CDMA (code division multiple access) and 18 circles in GSM. However, Mr. Srinath said that due to lack of spectrum it was unable to launch GSM services in the Delhi circle and in 39 districts across nine circles since 2008.

True value

The Tata Teleservices MD felt that the government could address industry issues by “creating a level-playing field which is now vitiated, providing clarity in policy and also having a spectrum auction process that throws up true value of spectrum. This will allow operators to compete and provide services at sensible levels.”