India telcos want CDMA spectrum for GSM

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are petitioning the Department of Telecommunications to optimize the utilization of 800MHz airwaves by allocating it for GSM services.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Indian telcos Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular are requesting India's authorities to allocate unused CDMA spectrum in the 800 megahertz (MHz) band for GSM services instead.

A report by Press Trust of India (PTI) Sunday said the three companies have petitioned the Department of Telecommunications to free up the 800MHz airwaves and harmonize it with the 900MHz band, which is used for GSM services currently.

"We recommend the 800MHz spectrum band [be] harmonized with the international band plan to become part of an extended 900MHz band. This will increase the availability of spectrum in the 900MHz band by up to 10MHz, or over 40 per cent," the letter stated. It was signed by Bharti Airtel CEO of India and South Asia Sanjay Kapoor; Idea Cellular Managing Director Himanshu Kapania; and Vodafone India Managing Director and CEO Marten Pieters.

The telcos believe that while CDMA provides wider coverage than the 900MHz band, its business ecosystem is not as well developed as compared to GSM services, the report noted.

Additionally, the signal reach of the 900MHz band is about two times more than 1800MHz--the other band of airwaves used for GSM. By using the former spectrum, telcos can save on deploying less cell towers across the nation, it said. 

With the decreasing interest in CDMA spectrum, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular--which are all GSM operators--want the DoT to allocate airwaves from 880MHz onward for GSM market players. Currently, the regulator starts allocating it from 890MHz onward.

"With the diminishing interest of operators in CDMA and the reducing subscriber base of the technology, we believe that we need to harmonize and reconfigure the existing Indian CDMA band in line with the global practice," the letter said.

They added this will not only bring about optimum utilization of the 800MHz spectrum, but the Indian government will also be able to "generate revenues that were denied due to the absence of bidders for the 800MHz spectrum during the [cancelled] CDMA auction".

The government may re-auction the 800MHz band by March 2013, according to PTI.


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