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Qualcomm waiting for BWA spectrum

April 13, 2012 10:46 IST

TelecomUS-based chipmaker Qualcomm on Thursday said it had applied for broadband wireless access or 4G spectrum in March this year and was awaiting allotment from the department of telecommunications.

Qualcomm had received its internet service provider licence last month, after a delay of 18 months, with a validity period of 20 years after a Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal direction to DoT.

The trouble between the firm and DoT started when the department rejected its application for a licence, saying the US major had set up four companies representing each circle instead of one.

Qualcomm responded by setting up one company but DoT had a fresh demand that its partner, Tulip (which, with GTL, holds 26 per cent), had dues which it had to pay to DoT and the application was held up again.

The US company had challenged the rejection of its application at TDSAT.

At the tribunal, Qualcomm had offered to pay the dues of Tulip of about Rs 410 crore (Rs 4.1 billion), which DoT accepted.

TDSAT then directed Qualcomm to deposit the money demanded by DoT from Tulip within four weeks; this was done on March 7.

TDSAT asked DoT to grant the licence within a week from the date of deposit of the dues.

When asked, a company spokesperson said, "We had applied for spectrum on March 21 and we are awaiting the spectrum allotment from DoT currently."

Qualcomm had won BWA spectrum in four telecom circles -- Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala -- for Rs 4,900 crore (Rs 49 billion) in the auction held by the government in June 2010.

It had made it clear from the beginning that their interest in the auction was to ensure the technology they were backing, LTE, was adopted by all operators in India, for which they were making the chipsets for the devices.

Ahead

The US company has been looking at selling out to one of the 3G operators.

It has also made it clear from the beginning that it would approach 3G companies which could supplement the growing data requirements of their subscribers, which cannot be met due to the limited spectrum available in 3G or in places of congestion with 4G.

However, it was not interested in running services like 4G.

The company approached Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Aircel for a partnership.

However, the negotiations could not consumate because it did not have spectrum.

Those in the know say apart from the cash the telcos offer, a final decision on whom it chooses to sell out to would also depend on its ability to roll out the services quickly and create an ecosystem to help in growing the overall 4G-LTE market.

Bharti Airtel became the first company to launch 4G services, on Tuesday in the Kolkata circle.

4G services will offer much faster data speed than 3G.

The other companies which had won BWA spectrum in the auction included Bharti Airtel, Reliance Industries (after acquiring Infotel Broadband) and Aircel.

Only Reliance has a pan-India licence for offering BWA services.

The government is planning a second round of auctions, for 4G, by the end of this year.

The ministry of information and broadcasting has agreed to release spectrum in the 700 MHz band, to be auctioned by DoT for 4G services.

BS Reporter in New Delhi
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