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Tata Teleservices To Surrender Excess CDMA Spectrum In 15 Circles; What About Other Telcos?

Tata Teleservices will be surrendering additional CDMA spectrum beyond 2.5 MHz in all circles, except Delhi and Mumbai, reports Livemint, adding that the company has taken this move to avoid paying the one time fee and protest against government’s move to charge a one time fee for airwaves beyond 2.5Mhz threshold.

Tata Teleservices currently operates in 19 circles in the country and has additional spectrum in 15 of them. Citing a Tata Teleservices spokesperson, the report states that Tata Teleservices will retain 3.75MHz spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai and pay a one-time fee for these circles, while it has sought 120 days time to surrender the spectrum and redeploy its network in the country.

Last month, Department of Telecom (DoT) had imposed a one-time fee on telcos holding airwaves above 2.5MHz in the 800 MHz bands effective from January 1, 2013. As per the order, Tata Tele had to pay Rs 1152.7 crore towards this one-time fee for its CDMA operations. However, following this move, Tata Tele will have to pay only Rs 62.9 crore for two circles Delhi and Mumbai, which has reportedly been paid by the company as indicated by the report.

Shutting Down Operations in 3 Circles: In November 2012, Tata Tele had informed that it will be winding up its operations in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and the Assam regions from January 18, 2013, since it no longer had the spectrum to operate in these three circles. The Supreme Court had revoked its licenses as part of the 122 telecom licenses revoked in February 2012.

What About Other Telcos? Besides Tata Tele, DoT had also imposed one-time fee on Reliance Communications (RCOM), MTS India, BSNL and MTNL. While state owned telcos BSNL and MTNL were reportedly planning to surrender its CDMA spectrum, RCOM had challenged this order in Calcutta High Court and had secured a stay order, as indicated by a The Hindu Business Line report. However there is no further updates on this case at the time of writing this article. Its not clear on what MTS India plans are with one-time fee order.

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Interestingly, its worth noting that Tata Tele had also earlier challenged this DoT order and had secured a stay order from the Calcutta High Court, as indicated by an ET report. It is yet to been seen if this spectrum surrendering by Tata Tele will have any effect on other telcos which are fighting against this order.

GSM Players: DoT had also imposed a similar one-time fee to GSM telcos holding spectrum above 4.4MHz in 1800MHz band, however Tata Tele does not have to pay any one-time fee for its GSM operations as it has less than 4.4 MHz spectrum in regions where it has GSM operations, as indicated by the ET report.

(By Apurva Chaudhary & Vikas SN)

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