Vodafone approaches TDSAT on DoTs spectrum guidelines

Written by Nikita Upadhyay | Nikita Upadhyay | Mumbai | Updated: Jul 17 2012, 09:24am hrs
Vodafone India, Indias second largest telecom company by revenues and subscribers, has approached the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) guidelines on conversion of existing spectrum into liberalised one.

By liberalising the spectrum, operators can offer any kind of digital service, apart from wireless, which is their core business. In order to honour the contractual rights of the licence, we have challenged para 6 of the guidelines, said a company official, not wanting to be identified. The case has been listed today.

He added: Liberalisation, as described by DoT, is the freedom to use any technology; this is the same as technology neutrality which has been in place since the National Telecom Policy (NTP)-99.

The company wants the government to correct this 'anomaly' immediately and para 6 to be dropped from the final guidelines. Companies like Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular are also likely to voice their disagreement on this to DoT.

Since NTP 99 and thereafter, we have had many instances where DoT and Trai have reiterated that the spectrum issued to us could be used for providing any kind of digital service. These services include wireless, multimedia and internet services. The same has been repeatedly stated, recognised, confirmed and clarified by DoT on several occasions. Expressing concern over the DoT guidelines on liberalisation of spectrum, the company in a media statement said the government has wrongly presumed that spectrum allocated till now is not liberalised.

According to the clause 6 of the guidelines, DoT mentioned that the operators need to pay an auction-discovered price for converting their existing spectrum into a liberalised one. The entry fee already paid may be adjusted on a pro-rata basis only on one occasion when the licensees convert their spectrum into liberalised spectrum," the guidelines added.

The guidelines for auction and allotment of spectrum in 1,800 Mhz and 800 Mhz were issued by DoT on July 3. As per the Supreme Court, initiation of the auction process will be carried out by 31st August.

There is no difference between the liberalisation agenda that the DoT has now announced and what is already permitted under policy & licence, including NTP-99, said TV Ramachandran, resident director, regulatory affairs, Vodafone India.

He pointed out that the industry had already written to the EGoM through COAI, seeking this anomaly be corrected immediately.

We once again reiterate that the view, which considers the present spectrum as 'unliberalised', is legally flawed and cannot be sustained," said Rajan Mathews, director general, COAI.

Without prejudice to this, the other erroneous proposal is the conversion fee to be applied only to 1,800-MHz spectrum, which is also flawed and discriminatory, Mathews wrote to the government in a letter on July 11.