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Indian Networks Want Right of First Refusal When Licenses are Renewed

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Three of India's largest mobile networks have called on the regulator and government to grant them a right of first refusal over buying back radio spectrum they will have to surrender in 2014.

The existing GSM900 licenses held by Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone come up for renewal in 2014, and the Telecom Commission (TC) proposals would allow that vacated spectrum to be auctioned off to all the incumbent operators.

The networks holding the spectrum are arguing that they should be given a right of first refusal over the spectrum, and any unwanted spectrum can then be resold at an auction.

The newer entrants to the market have long complained that their GSM1800 spectrum is more costly to deploy in rural areas, and are looking forward to the chance to buy some of the lower frequency spectrum if it is made available.

The regulator has proposed that the three GSM900 networks migrate to GSM1800 and then all the GSM900 spectrum could be auctioned to all networks.

"The Authority recommends that spectrum in 800 and 900 MHz bands should be refarmed at the time of renewal of the licences. For holders of spectrum in 900 MHz band, substitute spectrum should only be assigned in 1800 MHz band and for licence-holders of 800 MHz band, spectrum should be assigned in 450/1900 MHz bands," Trai had proposed.

There are also proposals to cap the available spectrum to 6.2Mhz of radio frequencies when licenses are renewed, although the incumbents generally hold 10Mhz in many circles.

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Tags: idea cellular  vodafone  bharti airtel  radio spectrum  India