File photograph of Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Communications Ltd., at a news conference in Mumbai. (Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg News)

RCom Calls DoT’s Stance On Spectrum Guarantee Discriminatory

As the Department of Telecommunications granted a conditional approval to the merger of Idea Cellular Ltd. and Vodafone India Ltd., the Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Communications Ltd. feels discriminated.

The department set multiple conditions for the final nod to the Idea Cellular-Vodafone merger, but it didn’t seek bank guarantees for Vodafone’s Rs 3,926-crore administratively allocated—prior to auctions—spectrum currently under litigation.

The DoT, however, wants to challenge the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal’s order that directed it to release a Rs 2,000-crore guarantee RCom gave “under protest” for liberalisation of similar 800 megahertz spectrum, according to a July 10 letter the company wrote to the department. RCom wants the department to release the guarantee and not approach the apex court against the tribunal’s July 3 order.

BloombergQuint has obtained a copy of the letter. RCom declined to comment over the phone and the company was yet to respond to emailed queries.

Spectrum allocated before the government switched to auctions can be liberalised—shared or traded—on paying the market price determined at the last bidding. In 2016, RCom liberalised its 800 MHz spectrum for sharing it with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. after paying Rs 6,600 crore in cash.

The DoT, however, asked RCom to furnish a guarantee of Rs 2,000 crore based on an earlier price. While the company provided the guarantee, it challenged the demand. The tribunal asked the department to release the guarantee earlier this month.

Debt-ridden RCom has exited the wireless business and has agreed to sell assets and spectrum to Reliance Jio to repay loans.

Also read: Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio To Buy RCom’s Spectrum And Towers