Differences within the Cellular Operators Association of India have come out in the open again with Spice Telecom Chairman B K Modi supporting the government's move, announced on Monday, to launch "number portability" in four big cities and auction 3G spectrum for incumbents and new players.
Modi has asserted that the lobby that represents GSM-technology operators protects the interest of only a few members.
Number portability refers to the flexibility allowed to consumers to change operators, but retain their mobile numbers, a move that will increase competition among service providers.
COAI had openly opposed the selective launch of number portability in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai contending that it should be extended to fixed-line services. It has also approached the telecom tribunal against the government's decision to auction spectrum for third generation mobile services.
Speaking to Business Standard, B K Modi said: "We are supportive of both the moves of the government. COAI is the view of only one member. Our view is different, we are all doing business separately."
Modi's Spice Telecom runs operations in Punjab and Karnataka and has also applied for a licence to run a pan-Indian GSM network.
Spice is one of the early applicants for a pan-Indian licence.
GSM technology accounts for more than two-thirds of mobile services in India.
The rival CDMA technology, of which Reliance Communications is the major service provider, is represented by the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, which has unconditionally supported number portability.
COAI has also suggested that the move would mostly benefit only one player -- RCom, which it did not, however, name -- which was rolling out both GSM and CDMA services.
The move comes close on the heels of a tirade from RCom, which issued a statement on Tuesday saying, "COAI should drop the charade of being an industry association and undertake shadow boxing for only two operators."
It added that COAI's opposition to mobile number portability is beyond comprehension as its own members like Aircel, Idea and Spice Telecom will benefit the most from it once they launch their services in new circles.
COAI Director General T V Ramachandran declined to comment on the issue.
While Idea Cellular also declined to comment, Aircel said it would go along the decision of the industry body.