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Tata Teleservices Reportedly Surrenders 20MHz CDMA Spectrum; Tata Photon?

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Tata Teleservices which operates mobile services under the Tata DOCOMO brand with its sister company Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd (TTML), has completed the proposed surrender of 20MHz of CDMA spectrum to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), reports The Times Of India citing a company communication sent to DoT’s wireless planning and co-ordination wing earlier this month. Tata Teleservices spokesperson has declined to comment on this to the publication. We have contacted the company for a clarification and are awaiting a response. 

This surrender was due to DoT imposing a one-time spectrum fee for holding spectrum above 2.5MHz in the 800 MHz bands effective from January 1, 2013, following which Tata Teleservices had decided to surrender additional CDMA spectrum beyond 2.5 MHz in all circles, except Delhi and Mumbai to reduce the one time fee and protest against government’s move to charge a one time fee for spectrum beyond 2.5Mhz threshold.

In October 2013, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd (TTML) had mentioned that it had surrendered 1.25MHz CDMA spectrum in Mumbai to retain 3.75MHz spectrum in the circle while it will be surrendering additional CDMA spectrum beyond 2.5 MHz in Maharashtra circle after the completion of network realignment.

For the Mumbai circle, the telco had to pay a one-time license fee of Rs 104.58 crore, of which it had paid first yearly installment of Rs 29.90 crore under protest in August 2013, although DoT had directed Tata Tele to surrender its CDMA spectrum unconditionally (More on that here).

Will Tata Photon Customers Get Affected? Remember that Tata Tele primarily uses the CDMA spectrum to provide data services to its EVDO based (USB data card) connectivity business Tata Photon and uses the GSM spectrum to offer voice services to its subscribers, a strategy which is also followed by Reliance Communications (RCOM). Therefore we wonder how this spectrum surrender will affect Tata Photon subscribers? Also note that Tata Teleservices has 3G spectrum in only nine of the 22 telecom circles.

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This development also means that Sistema Shyam which operates its telecom services in India as MTS India is probably the only telco which is focusing on the CDMA services in the country with both Tata Tele and RCOM largely shifting its focus to GSM services. Sistema was also the only participant in India’s March 2013 CDMA spectrum auctions, while there were no participants in the November 2012 CDMA spectrum auctions after Tata Tele and Videocon had withdrawn their respective bids prior to the auction.

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