What Happens to 3G Spectrum in 3 Circles Alloted to S-Tel?

STel Mobile spectrumAmidst of all telecom related mess up, it seems everyone is so concerned about 2G spectrum – its policy, allocation, reserve price and all these. But the whole thing is so messed up, considering 2G spectrum is mainly for voice, which is in turn as bread and butter for consumers and operators.

But Govt. is not doing anything to get back the 3G spectrum from STel, one of the operators whose licenses were cancelled by court order in February 2012. During that time STel was operating in 5 circles – Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Bihar – Jharkhand and North East and offering 2G/GSM voice and data services.

In 2008 STel got spectrum and UASL in 6 category ‘C’ circles including Jammu and Kashmir. As in February 2012 the operator’s licence was cancelled, its foreign invester BaTelco (Currently BaTelco is looking for a come back in India, via Reliance Communications’s Globalcom) sold its entire stake to Indian partner Sky City Foundation. Siva Group, headed by Sivasankaran has the majority stake in STel. STel also won 5MHz 3G spectrum on 2100 MHz band in Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar in a valid auction process in 2010; the ownership of those 3G airwave still belong to STel. The company did not roll out 3G services in none of the circles, while its website reads that STel’s network is a 3G-ready network.

At present Stel website (Stel.in) is still alive and offers MNP procedure. Shiva Group’s website also notes for STel as the company’s telecom project and writes that STel owns the 3G spectrum while 2G licences were cancelled. Just after the cancellation of its licenses the company wrote to Prime Minister they will refund the spectrums if Govt. agrees to refund their money wasted for acquiring 2G and 3G spectrum with interests. STel does not seem in a position or desire to start its business again in India, as the company did not participate in any of the 2G auction process lately (Nov 2012 and March 2013).

So the solution is simple, take back the spectrum on 2100MHz from STel and refund the money they paid during 2010 3G auction along with interest, and conduct a small 3G spectrum auction for these three circles. Though I doubt anyone can invest for 3G in those category ‘C’ circles except Telenor who are still giving priority to voice markets.

But is there any movement from Govt to get back STel’s 3G spectrum? No. Nobody knows why. Keeping 3G spectrum unused, it’s no good.

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  • Pravin February 14, 2014 2:47 pm

    Now a days i am using the Docomo mobile service provider but some days before i am a great fan of Stel because before some days Stel is counted as the best service providers in our area. The tariff plans are quite lower and better than other providers. Still i am using the stel number after MNP service. The 2g internet speed of Stel is also very impressive. It is better if Stel may come to our are for a lower call rate and impressive network. By the way thanks a lot for such a nice information and i appreciate a lot for your blogging effort.

  • Esmail March 30, 2013 4:42 pm

    Government should take back the spectrum held in 2100MHz from S-tel and refund the money paid by them in auction, but instead of returning the money with interest it should return only 85% of the amount paid and keep 15% as usage charges of the spectrum for 3yrs since 2010 which is approx 15% of the 20yrs licence period awarded to it. The fact that it did not roll out HSPA services on the spectrum won by it is of no substantial concern to the government, since it was S-tel’s personal decision to do so.
    As for the re auctioning of the spectrum in these 3 circles it should be kept on hold till the telecom ministry works out a spectrum swap deal with the defence ministry for exchanging 15MHz (3 blocks of 5MHz each) in the 2100MHz band held by it in return for 15MHz of frequency in the 1900MHz band which is currently lying vacant and unused by the telecom ministry. also the government has 17 blocks of 5MHz frequency in 2100MHz band which it did not auction in 2010 3G auctions. So in total the government can have 22×3+17+3(of s-tel)= 86 blocks of 5MHz each which it can put up for auction in the second round of 3G auctions, and this would be just adequate for Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Docomo, Reliance, Aircel to all become Pan India 3G operators.
    Only thing needed is a dynamic Telecom Minister Unlike Sibbal who works hand in glove with the biggies in the industry and works for personal gains rather than the lager good of the nation.

    • DB March 31, 2013 7:05 pm

      ESMAIL — you should be the next TM (Telecom Minister) !!!

      • Esmail March 31, 2013 10:53 pm

        Haha, how I wish that was possible 🙂

  • Sonu March 30, 2013 4:32 pm

    I am from Odisha & have the same Q. There is still no 3G network in my area except of BSNL which is a joke for 3G itself.

    • Nitin Raj April 7, 2013 12:23 pm

      Odisha does have Aircel & Reliance 3G working in full flow…

  • Nikhil March 30, 2013 1:14 pm

    Our government system is very slow….our government will take back these 3G licenses from STel and re-auction it and i think one from the Trio-Company(Airtel+Idea+Vodafone) will take these licenses.

  • sachin March 30, 2013 1:03 pm

    what abot the 3g spectrum that Aircel holds in kerala??they have already stopped their operation in kerala

  • pratik March 30, 2013 12:52 pm

    totally agree with u..

  • Saurabh March 30, 2013 12:18 pm

    Instead of surrendering 3G license and asking for a refund, S-Tel should look out for buyer as Govt/DoT is good at penalizing companies when they use the word “Refund”. They(DoT) are so artistic in creating methods to keep the money to themselves that companies these days avoid requesting them due to fear. Who knows instead of refunding the 3G licenses fee, they ask for more money by finding new ways and also cancel the licenses keeping in mind that S-Tel’s UASL also got cancelled after SC order.

    Like Qualcomm sold their BWA spectrum to Airtel in 4 circles and I’m sure Bharti will buyout the rest 51% of stake, S-Tel should also lookout for buyers. S-Tel paid Rs.337.67 crores for these 3 circles.

    Those among the successful bidders in Himachal Pradesh(Price Rs. 37.23 crores) were Airtel, Idea, Reliance and S-Tel. So Tata and Aircel don’t have 3G license there. One of them can look for a buyout and especially Aircel which has more customers. Aircel has over 7 lac customers in HP which is well above Idea’s 4.5 lacs who is also holding 3G license. Vodafone also has same no. of customers as Idea at 4.53 Lacs. Tata has less than 2 lacs. So Aircel, in case they want to continue operations in HP should look for it and C Sivasankran was X-Chief of Aircel before. But Aircel’s operations are in doubt everywhere.

    Another one is Orrisa (Price: Rs.96.98 crores) which is the only circle missed by AVoId group as none of the three got spectrum there. Aircel and Reliance are the other holders currently and any one of the AVoId group can think of it. Bharti Airtel has over 68 lacs customers in Orrisa, so it will be good for them if they buy it out. Vodafone and Idea has around 29.8 and 10.37 lac customers respectively. Tata has over 21.5 lacs. So Airtel must buy it, if any opportunity comes. AvoId Total in Orrisa as of Feb 28, 2013= 10,828,969 i.e over 1 crore customers which is almost 1.5X that of other’s total.

    Bihar (Price: Rs.203.46 crores) already has Airtel present with Idea and Vodafone using its network. But in case anyone of these two want to have their own license, they can go for it as they have good subscriber base there. Reliance and Aircel already holding 3G licenses in Bihar. So those who are left include Tata Docomo, Uninor and Videocon. Looking at Tata subscriber base of over 36 lacs, it wont be a good decision but maybe 3G license can help them pick up more customers. But Tata already has liquidity problem and they aren’t able to expand in those circles where they are already holding license. They also let their 3 CDMA licenses go. So Tata don’t seem to be fit. So Idea/Vodafone, Uninor and Videocon will look if opportunity arises. Uninor has around 45 lac customers in Bihar while Videocon is yet to start. So Uninor seems to be the ideal candidate.

  • AD March 30, 2013 12:07 pm

    can you tell me, about the mobile numbers which are once ported to another network and deactivated due to nonusage. Who is the owner of those number, parent operator or the new operator?

    • Nikhil March 30, 2013 1:20 pm

      Number goes to original company.

    • Harish March 30, 2013 2:08 pm

      Parent operator.

    • pratik March 30, 2013 2:40 pm

      parent operator will be owner ..n only parent operator can reissue those numbers

      • Tharun George March 30, 2013 7:58 pm

        How does the parent company know they got deactivated?

        • PRATIK March 31, 2013 2:23 am

          that depends upon acceptor or new operator how fast it can deactivate inactive ported number n release the number from its database to parent operator for recycle.as far as i seen docomo,idea,aircel release back deactivated ported number to parent operator in 90 days,but airtel,vodafone,bsnl dont release them although deactivate them.but it is interesting that reliance dont deactivate its ported in inative numbers in both gsm n cdma…

    • AD March 30, 2013 4:03 pm

      Thank you frnds for your kind reply, I have found out the same ans. Number goes to the parent operator after 90days of deactivation. 🙂

  • vineet March 30, 2013 11:34 am

    idea vil be interested in bihar circle.

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