Old mobile operators and new players have differed in their views on the proposed auction of 2G spectrum. The former has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to keep the proposed auction open to all. On the other hand, Uninor, whose licence has been cancelled following the Supreme Court order, said the ‘right of first refusal' for allotment of spectrum should be provided to an operator in a service area where the player had already rolled out its services.

Interestingly, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all GSM players, has also sided with old players and has written to the TRAI stating that all existing players should be allowed to participate in the spectrum auction. It has termed the demand of new players that they be allowed to participate in the bidding process as “totally irrational”.

“We are sure that the auction policy will be fair, transparent, unbiased and appropriately structures so that all existing operators are able to participate in the spectrum auction,” the COAI said. It has also disapproved the comments made by the Uninor Managing Director and Telenor Asia Head Sigve Brekke that only new operators be allowed to participate as they have invested heavily on infrastructure and foreign players invested in India only after licences were issued to their Indian partners by the government.

Restriction

Meanwhile, old operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — have told the TRAI that the proposed 2G auction should not be limited to new companies alone.

Vodafone India, while responding to the TRAI's pre-consultation paper on 2G allocation — Allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 service areas by auction — said: “It would not be logical to limit the auction only to the spectrum which was allocated in 2008, and only among the parties which acquired the spectrum in 2008. In that case, virtually by definition, the supply of spectrum would be equal to or less than the demand for the spectrum.

“Such artificial restriction would lead to an outcome no different from an administered price regime.”

However, new operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) called for a two-step auction — start-up spectrum auction, followed by another round for add-on spectrum. The existing mobile telephony licence holders with allocated spectrum should not be eligible for participation in round one, it added.

Interestingly, Uninor has made a slight change in its earlier stand by stating that both private respondents as well as new players should be allowed to bid.