Delay In Frequency Allocation Roadblock For Ideas Delhi Cell Service Launch

New Delhi: | Updated: May 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
Delhi, the largest cellular market in the country, will have to wait for at least another 6-8 weeks for the fourth cellular service provider Idea Cellular to launch operations.

It may have to wait longer if the frequency allocation does not come through in the next few days.

We planned to launch services on June 1. All supporting infrastructure is ready. However, lack of frequency allocation has delayed the launch, president and chief executive officer of Idea Cellular (formerly Birla-Tata-AT&T), Sanjeev Aga, told eFE.

The 1.12 million strong cellular subscriber base in the country is currently serviced by Bhartis Airtel (605,251 subscribers), Hutchison-Essar (421,176 subscribers) and the government owned Mahanagar Telpehone Nigam Ltd (95,203 subscribers).

Idea Cellular, which provides services in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, signed the licence for Delhi in October 2001.

To pre-empt any delays, the company applied for spectrum allocation on the basis of the Letter of Intent in September 2001 itself.

So far, the company has got about 275 sites provisionally cleared by the Wireless and Planning Coordination (WPC) wing of the Department of Telecommunications. There is however no indication of when the requisite frequency would be allocated.

Ideas immediate requirement is 6.2 MhZ+6.2Mhz (for uplink and downlink). Earlier this month, the DoT offered the company 1Mhz+1Mhz.

That is not even enough for testing purposes, Mr Aga lamented.

The company claims to be losing Rs 50 lakhs for each day of delay.

We have invested over Rs 500 crore so far. This includes licence fee (Rs 171 crore) and other capital expenditure. Each days delay is causing us a huge financial loss, he said.

Frequency allocation is done by interdepartmental Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Allocation (SACFA).

This involves approval from 19 different agencies, including multifarious security agencies.

Apparently, Delhi has been singled out for non-allocation of spectrum for the fourth cellular service provider.

Could the looming war clouds be responsible for the delay

Mr Aga said that he was not inclined to think that impending war was the reason for delay.

It should have been planned and done much in advance. Where there is a will, there is a way, he said.

The company does not seem to have any recourse except to wait, beg and plead. Litigation against the government is not an option we want to explore, Mr Aga said.

The fourth cellular operators are being allocated frequency in the 1800 Mhz band, where globally 75Mhz+75Mhz has been earmarked for GSM (Global System for Mobile communications).