DLF, Indiabulls & Shyam in tele rush
It's a gold rush gone out of control. A day after the government said its doors would close for applicants for fresh telecom licences on October 1, three companies DLF, Indiabulls Real Estate (IREL) and Shyam Telelink made a dash for pan India mobile licences on Wednesday, taking the count of applications upwards of 200 or an average of 10 applicants per circle.
DLF, the country's largest real estate developer, is the fourth real estate firm rumored to be placing serious bets on the lucrative telecom market after Parsvnath, Unitech and IREL. However, only Parsvnath, Unitech and IREL's applications have been filed with DoT.
Shyam Telelink, which offers wireless and wireline services in Rajasthan, has applied for UAS licences in 21 circles. Government sources admit that the large number of companies queuing up for telecom spectrum is a signal of a myopic policy going very wrong rather than a cause for celebration.
DoT has fallen prey to its own inertia by refusing to delink spectrum allocation from licences and continuing with a first-come-first-served spectrum allocation policy designed as far back as 2001.
According to Trai data, in 2001, India had a mere 4 million mobile subscribers. In sharp contrast, the country now adds near this number to its mobile subscriber base every three weeks. A paltry Rs 1,600 crore entry fee for nationwide pan India licences along with spectrum is clearly an irresistible steal of a deal. While applicants are rightly smug about their business acumen and imminent fortunes, dreaming of soon joining India's list of telecom billionaires, DoT's economic sense fails to inspire.
The first sign that DoT is at its wits end came on Monday, with a sudden announcement that no more applications would be entertained after October 1. This was followed by reports on Wednesday that a two-stage selection criterion is being contemplated.