Bharti Airtel, India's leading telecom operator, and Reliance Jio have now locked horns over the cap on spectrum holdings in a band. In a note to the regulator, the Sunil Mittal-led telco has reportedly opposed any removal or relaxation of the upper limit on spectrum holding in a band from the present 50%, while the Mukesh Ambani-led Jio believes the 50% in-band cap should be done away with, as technology has become spectrum-agnostic.
Bharti Airtel said that the cap should stay to ensure no telecom player is able to create a monopoly, and gains dominance in holding of airwaves in any particular band, according to media reports.
Airtel's views come amid speculations that Jio may acquire Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications' spectrum in the 800 Mhz band. This band is considered to be the most efficient frequency available at present for 4G services. RCom already shares its spectrum holding in 800 Mhz bands with Jio.
The telecom regulator had earlier sought service providers' views on spectrum caps through a closed consultation process. As per rules, spectrum cap is the limit of the spectrum telcos can hold for providing services. The cap is 25% of the overall airwaves assigned in a telecom circle to a telco, and 50% in a particular spectrum band.
Business Standard, citing sources, reported that Airtel also wants the overall cap of 25% to be increased to 33%.
A separate Economic Times report said that Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, like Reliance Jio, also want the rules to be relaxed. The report added that any move to relax caps will help Vodafone and Idea retain a small part of their spectrum which they would have to surrender or sell upon their merger since they exceed the limit.
RCom, in its view, has also said that both inter-band and intra-band limits should be removed. Interestingly, RCom earlier this week said that Jio is interested in its assets.
Notably, the telecom department had asked the telecom regulator to provide views on spectrum cap before the government takes any policy decision on the issue, following the inter-ministerial group's (IMG) recommendation on revising spectrum cap limit which would facilitate exit route for loss-making telecom companies.