India eyeing new panel for spectrum rules

India will set up a new panel with representatives from industry and experts to revise norms for allotment of spectrum to wireless telecom operators, the telecom ministry, quoted by a Reuters report, said.

India is the world's fastest growing mobile services market, adding about 8 million users a month, but the boom has caused a strain on the scarce spectrum that is issued by the government based on the number of subscribers an operator has.

Telecom Engineering Centre, a technical body of the telecom ministry, last week recommended a four to 15 times rise in subscribers for operators, depending on their telecom circle, to become eligible for additional spectrum, the Reuters report said.

The report further quoted the agency as saying that the spectrum could serve more subscribers if operators adopted new technologies such as a compression system for audio and another that reduces interference in signals.

The criteria was tougher than the two to six times rise recommended by the telecom regulator in August, and drew more protests from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that had earlier challenged the regulator's recommendations, the report said.

The Reuters report further said COAI, which represents the dominant GSM platform used by top mobile firm Bharti Airtel and others like Vodafone Essar, a unit of Vodafone, says the stringent criteria would affect their expansion.

But the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, which represents operators on the CDMA platform such as Reliance Communications, welcomed last week's recommendations, saying these would ensure efficient utilization of spectrum, the report said.

India has permitted operators to provide nationwide wireless services on alternate platforms, and some CDMA operators, like Reliance, have applied for licenses to operate GSM networks, the report further said.