Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest mobile phone company by subscribers, has handed back CDMA spectrum covering Madhya Pradesh to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for reassignment. The regulator is requesting operators return unused frequencies to help plug a shortfall in spectrum and pave the way for the launch of new wireless services. Airtel received the CDMA frequencies when it was first licensed in 1997, and is only returning the spectrum under duress. It claimed that it was asked to pay inflated licence fees for the CDMA spectrum following the conversion to a Unified Access Services Licence (UASL) scheme in 2003, and instead opted to transfer its 20,000 CDMA users to its GSM network, before reluctantly returning the frequencies. State-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) is among other operators to have been asked to give up excess CDMA spectrum.