Indian regulator the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has informed Vodafone India and Loop Telecom that their licences in the Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta circles will not be extended and that they will need to bid for spectrum in order to continue operations. The Economic Times writes that the 900MHz spectrum held by the companies and Bharti Airtel since 1994, was listed for sale in the failed 11 March auction and will be put on offer for a further auction. Vodafone criticised the decision, saying that it was against the interests of the telco and its ‘several million customers in these cities/circles.’ The group added that it believed it was entitled to an extension of its licences on terms that are mutually agreed, without having to bid in an auction.
The paper quoted an unnamed source close to the matter as saying: ‘DoT has said that [in the] clause related to extension of licences, companies should not read ‘may’ as ‘shall’ extend licence. Hence their request to extend licences have not been accepted by DoT.’ The DoT’s reasoning for the denial echoed communications minister Kapil Sibal’s justification for banning 3G roaming after ostensibly green-lighting the practice. In late 2011, when the watchdog performed a u-turn and moved to halt the provision of 3G services in areas where cellcos did not hold spectrum, Sibal said of the measure: ‘It is permissible. But not permitted.’