Like telecom companies (telcos) Airtel and Vodafone, Loop Mobile has petitioned the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) for an extension of its 900 MHz Mumbai licence at the market-determined price based on the 1,800 MHz auction outcome, without it having to participate in the auctions.
According to a knowledgeable source, all three telcos had withdrawn their petition (for extension of their 2G licences that expire next year) from the Delhi High Court and subsequently filed the same with the TDSAT.
Vodafone and Loop Mobile refrained from making any statements. But Bharti Airtel said it believes that the licence contract between it and the Department of Telecommunications or DoT guarantees the extension of its licences along with the allocated spectrum.
Airtel said it is willing to pay the market-determined price for all spectrum allocated to it on the basis of the auctions to be held in January 2014.
However, in the past, all incumbent operators have argued that refarming of spectrum (that is, giving up spectrum for auctions and then re-bidding for it in the auctions) would be detrimental to their large subscriber base accumulated over a 20-year period.
They have argued that nowhere in the world has total refarming ever been conducted, and thus incumbents reserve the right to first refusal before the auction process.
The government had, however, announced the reserve price for both auctions – 1,800 MHz and 900 MHz – with the knowledge that the entire spectrum of these operators would be put on the block.
Rajan Matthews, director-general, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), said, “In case the TDSAT hearing fails, this matter will be taken up with the Supreme Court before the 900 MHz auction.”
Also, the three telcos have been unclear whether or not to participate in the 1,800 MHz auction or the 900 MHz auction in the circles where they do not hold spectrum at present.
The TDSAT is scheduled to hear the petitions of Airtel, Vodafone and Loop in the second week of January, just before the January 23 auctions.