SSTL looking to buy pan-India CDMA spectrum

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SSTL looking to buy pan-India CDMA spectrum
Sistema Shyam Teleservices, operating under the MTS brand name, plans to expand at pan-India level if the price of CDMA spectrum is fixed based on the methodology used for determining the rate for GSM airwaves.

"Why not? We already have network now. We can launch it in one month. It is very much possible if spectrum price is right," SSTL chief executive officer Dmitry Shukov told PTI in an interview.

He was responding to query if SSTL, which operates only in 9 of 22 service areas, will expand to pan-India level if spectrum price is fixed as demanded by it.

(Also see: SSTL calls TRAI's proposal to bar it from CDMA spectrum auction "unfair")

Government is starting bidding for two sets of GSM spectrum used by companies like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular etc., in the auction starting February 3.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is working to determine CDMA spectrum base price for auctions after repeated requests from the government.

The regulator had recommended against auctioning these airwaves in September but suggested sale of two sets of GSM airwaves, 1800MHz band and 900MHz band, at a lower price compared to reserve price fixed in the March 2013 auction.

It suggested a pan-India reserve price of Rs. 1,496 crores per MHz in the 1800 band, down 37 percent from the base price set in the previous auction. For 900MHz band, Trai recommended a reserve price that was up to 62 percent lower than the reserve price fixed in March.

SSTL has demanded that regulator use a similar ratio for determining price of CDMA airwaves as was the case for March 2013 auction.

"Last reserve price for 800MHz spectrum was only 0.65 times the reserve price for 1800MHz band in most circles. It is our belief and expectation that this ratio should be retained," Shukov said.

Besides this, Trai representatives in open house discussion said CDMA spectrum can fetch more money in auction if firms are given contiguous blocks of airwave frequencies.

Shukov expressed concern over making spectrum blocks contiguous as firms already hold some airwaves and shifting them may lead to issues related to a new compensation policy.

"In case harmonisation campaign is launched before auction, it can take months or even years. Government will lose revenues in form of spectrum usage charge, licence fee, indirect tax and overall fresh investments. I don't understand why only our spectrum is not being put for auction," he said.

The SSTL CEO said his company will support the harmonisation process but auction should be conducted as early as possible.

"The auction for 800MHz needs to happens as soon as possible. We will be stuck with 3.75MHz while everyone else will race away with extra spectrum. We need additional spectrum to increase our data speed and make data services attractive for our customers," Shukov said.

Government is eyeing Rs. 40,874.5 crores spectrum revenue this fiscal.


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