2G Spectrum Panel to review TRAIís proposals

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Old 08-Jul-2010
2G Spectrum Panel to review TRAIís proposals

New Delhi, July 7

Under pressure from the protesting telecom operators, the Telecommunications Ministry has decided to set up a panel to look into the concerns raised by the mobile firms over the sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposals, including levying a one-time fee on 2G radio spectrum.

The decision to form the panel came following the meeting between Telecommunications Minister A. Raja and the telecom operators here today. The meeting was called by the minister following protests by the telecom operators over the recent recommendations of TRAI.

Those present at the meeting were representatives of Access Service Providers (COAI) and AUSPI and representatives of their member service providers. The CMDs of MTNL and BSNL were also present.

The Internal Committee of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) would be headed by Member (Technology).

Various issues on licences, spectrum, allocation, charging of spectrum and rollout obligations, merger and acquisitions and other related issues were discussed at the meeting.

The panel will finalise views on the regulator's proposals and refer them to the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body within the ministry, the government in a statement said.

The meeting came within days of the Telecom Minister agreeing to refer the matter regarding the spectrum holding by the telcos to the Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Facing diverse views both from the telecom operators and also from the critical Opposition parties, the DoT had thought it best that the EGoM would be able to solve all problems relating to the TRAIís recent recommendations on spectrum-related issues.

TRAI has recommended a one-time charge for spectrum held by operators beyond 6.2 MHz and suggested that it be benchmarked with 3G-spectrum prices for which auction was held recently.

The DoTís decision came in the wake of a difference of opinion among operators, with old GSM operators like Bharti, Vodafone and Idea Cellular opposing the TRAI report saying the more efficient players are being penalised.

Incidentally, GSM operators have also refused to be part of TRAI's latest consultation process for working out the pricing model for 2G spectrum, linking it to 3G. They said the method used by the regulator to fix the price of 2G spectrum they hold beyond the 6.2 MHz mark was neither transparent nor open.Their contention is that these proposals are arbitrary and retrograde, which will nullify the telecom advancements made in all these years.

They have been wary of the proposals because if the recommendations are accepted by the DoT, they would have to fork about Rs 20,000 crore for keeping spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz.

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