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Quick Take: On EVDO Services & Spectrum; COAI Vs CDMA Operators

It appears that an issue raised by the GSM operator lobby COAI last week has elicited a reaction from India’s Department of Telecom. Here is what has happened:

– The Times of India reported that the COAI has alleged a Rs 14,823 crore ($3 billion) “loss to the exchequer” because the CDMA players were providing EVDO (high speed Internet) services in their assigned 800 MHz CDMA spectrum band, “without acquiring spectrum designated for EVDO through the auction route”. It points towards August 2008 guidelines, which said that spectrum should be auctioned in the 800 MHz band for EVDO services.

– The Economic Times reports that the DoT has sought information from the CDMA operators regarding the frequency band in which they’re offering services.

Our take:
– Spectrum usage should be service independent: if the CDMA operators have been allocated the spectrum, they should be free to offer whichever service they want. Spectrum should not be designated as 2G or 3G or EVDO, and be technology and service neutral.
– GSM operators haven’t offered EVDO services, and are hence at a competitive disadvantage. VAS and Data services account for over 20% of topline for CDMA operators as opposed to GSM operators. But why are they raising the issue over two years after EVDO services went live? Also remember that Vodafone had a tie-up with MTS for EVDO services. Are they endorsing this complaint?
– The loss to exchequer argument is flawed, because it is assuming that the telecom operators would be willing to pay as much money for spectrum for EVDO services, as they will for 3G.

What a waste of time, effort and money this infighting in the telecom sector is. If only they spent as much energy trying to provide people reliable mobile broadband, instead of acting like frogs in a well.

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