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Vodafone India still waiting on 2G spectrum, accuses govt of 'unjust enrichment'

Telco says spectrum in some circles it won in last November's auction are still being used by other operators, even though their licenses have been canceled by India's Supreme Court.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Vodafone India has requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to "immediately" allot it the spectrum it bidded successfully from last November's 2G auction.

The Economic Times reported Monday the telco said the delay in allocating the spectrum was because previous operators, whose licenses were canceled by the Supreme Court, were still using the airwaves. "For instance, operators like Idea, Videocon, Uninor are on the same frequency band in circles like Assam, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa," the operator said in a letter to the DoT.

Vodafone India says DoT is receiving "unjust enrichment" by charging both new spectrum owners and operators with canceled licenses.

It added the ministry had started the clock for the 20-year license period on December 19, 2012, when the telco paid the first payment tranche of INR 3.72 billion (US$69.9 million) for the operating license. In other words, the government agency has been benefitting from both new licensees and operators with canceled licenses since last December, which amounts to "unjust enrichment", Vodafone said.

A recent affidavit by the DoT to the Supreme Court proposed that existing operators may continue services after December 19, as long as they pay the auction price for the license while auction winners set up their networks, the report noted.

Vodafone India said in its letter: "In context of the pending allocation of spectrum and continued use of spectrum by other licence operators, DoT may immediately clarify and confirm that the period of 20 years for which the right to use the spectrum has been acquired by the licensee through this auction will be reckoned from the date of actual allotment of the said spectrum."

Vodafone India successfully acquired licenses in 14 telecom zones last November to expand its 2G coverage. However, the auction fell flat for the Indian government, which was hoping to raise INR 400 billion (US$7.3 billion) but only garnered INR 94 billion (US$1.7 billion) from the sale of the 1800MHz bandwidth.

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