'Reallocate entire 900 MHz spectrum'

Operators object to telecom panel proposal

 The Telecom Commission on Wednesday recommended that existing mobile operators fully give up airwaves in the superior 900 MHz band at the time of licence renewal in 2014.

The Telecom Commission, headed by Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekar, recommended to the government that the entire spectrum in 900 MHz be refarmed (or reallocation).
"The entire spectrum in 900 MHz will be refarmed," Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar said after meeting of the panel.

Refarming would mean that incumbent telecom companies will have to surrender all spectrum in the 900 Mhz band, as licences in each circle come up for renewal and then bid for the same spectrum at new, higher prices.

The recommendation will be placed before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram for a final decision.

Chandrashekhar said that existing operators will be allowed to bid in the auction for 900 MHz spectrum, which is likely to take place in the first half of 2013. If they are successful, they can retain the spectrum, he added.

However, if the incumbents fail to win the spectrum, they will be given 18 months to move to the 1,800 MHz spectrum towards which an equivalent amount of spectrum will be made available for them in the new band.

However, the recommendations invited strong opposition from the GSM players who said that it would ring the “death knell” for GSM players. The move would cost them over Rs 66,000 crore in replacing infrastructure, the GSM lobby said.

The recommendations were largely opposed by the industry which says it will cost about Rs 66,000 crore more in capital outlay on replacing infrastructure.

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