Tata Quits Industry Body

4:00 AM -- Only days after the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) barred Tata Teleservices Ltd. (TTSL) from exercising its membership voting rights because of disputed fee payments, the operator has quit the industry body.

The move has prompted speculation that other members of the COAI, the lobby group of India's GSM operators, might follow suit and set up their own association.

Along with TTSL, two other operators, Loop Telecom Pvt. Ltd. and Etisalat DB, were barred from exercising their membership rights because of uncleared dues. According to the The Economic Times, TTSL says it has paid all the fees it believes are due.

"We have found that COAI is not a transparent association and represents the views of only a few selected old players as all powers/rights are vested in their hands," TTSL said in a letter to the COAI.

In spite of repeated attempts, Light Reading Asia was unable to contact either COAI or TTSL.

TTSL alleges that COAI is dominated by legacy players such as Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Vodafone India , and Idea Cellular Ltd. .

TTSL's decision to quit the association could be linked to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) 's recent recommendations on retrospective spectrum charges. (See Idea Joins TRAI's Critics and Bharti Airtel Slams Indian Regulator.)

The older operators, such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, and Idea Cellular, and the COAI have vehemently opposed TRAI's recommendations that operators currently using more than 6.2MHz of spectrum for their 2G services should pay a one-time fee. The newer players, which don't have the additional capacity, have not spoken out against the TRAI's recommendations.

Another view is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for a single association to represent the views of all GSM players. That view, in turn, has led to specualtion that the likes of TTSL, Etisalat DB, Loop and Uninor might form a new, separate association.

— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

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