Vodafone India and Airtel have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the Department of Telecom’s decision to put its 900 MHz spectrum to auction.

The company said the DoT move comes even when Vodafone’s applications for licence extension are pending.

Speaking to Business Line, Marten Pieters, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone India, said, “We had written a letter to the DoT to extend our licence but we have not received any response. Then we find that the spectrum that we are currently using is being put up for auction.”

Pieters said the company has invested heavily in deploying its network on the 900 MHz band and any move to take away this spectrum would do a lot of damage to the operator’s operations.

“Vodafone believes that it is entitled to a fair and reasonable extension of its licence as per mutually agreeable terms. Both the policy and licence provide for continuity and this action of the DoT to arbitrarily withdraw the 900 MHz spectrum is not only against the provisions of policy and licence but also disruptive and against public interest,” Vodafone said in a statement.

Pieters said that he was willing to negotiate with the Government as long as it is allowed to continue operations in the 900 MHz band.

The DoT has decided to take away 900 MHz spectrum band from incumbent players, including Vodafone, as part of a strategy to level the playing field between new and old players.

The 900 MHz band is considered to be more efficient and cost-effective and is currently owned by incumbent players.

Under the DoT's plan, this band will be taken away from the old players and put up for auction so that everyone gets an equal chance to bid for it. Vodafone, however, said that the DoT’s action was illegal and would impact millions of users.

Thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 20, 2013)
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