Spectrum cost Rs 1.8k cr, claim GSM cos

With CDMA operators demanding that the government charge GSM players for additional spectrum, the latter has approached telecom minister A Raja countering the charge and saying they have paid about Rs 1,800 crore till date for the additional spectrum availed.

At present, both GSM and CDMA operators are assigned 2G spectrum for free but in phases. This is subjected to the stipulated subscriber numbers. GSM operators get double units of spectrum compared to CDMA operators as the latter technology is considered more spectrum efficient.

The war of words over spectrum pricing began with CDMA operators alleging that as per the unified access service licence (UASL), each GSM operator is entitled to only 6.25 MHz of 2G spectrum and each CDMA operator up to 5 MHz for free, while adding that further allocation of this resource must be priced.

In fact, Tata Teleservices has even said that if GSM operators were charged for the additional 2G spectrum allocated to them (beyond their contracted amounts), then the government would earn in excess of Rs 1,700 crore in fees.

In its counter, the Cellular Operators Association of India, the body representing GSM operators, in a communication to Mr Raja said that the GSM players have paid an initial usage charge of 2% for an allotment of 4.4 MHz spectrum and additional 1% charge on each additional tranche of spectrum that had been allotted.

“Based on actual data collected from some large operators and then pro rating it for the entire GSM industry, it is estimated that the GSM industry has already paid over Rs 1,800 crore on account of above such additional allotments of spectrum.

It is most respectfully reiterated that the Rs 1,800 crore is over and above the 2% usage charge paid by the industry. The actual facts and figures show that the Government has in fact received an additional Rs. 1,800 crore till date on account of escalated charges for spectrum use, i.e. over and above the charges of 2%,” COAI added.