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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

?I have power to allocate spectrum?

Sandeep Bamzai, PTI   June 03, 2005
First Published: 15:45 IST(3/6/2005) | Last Updated: 15:45 IST(3/6/2005)

The telecom minister reckons that you have no business to be allocating spectrum and he has actually said so...
My belief is that this is part of the terms of reference. Section 11 (1a) of the TRAI Act clearly states that I can recommend suo moto anything related to the sector without reference to the government. There is nothing outside my purview according to the TRAI Act. In any case, these are not orders but recommendations. I have also humbly written to the minister explaining the above.

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Why is the Left baying for your blood, what is it that they want?
All the decisions which have been criticised are decisions of TRAI and its members. Very honestly, I think it is a case of a communication gap and if I were to make a presentation on the strategy of TRAI, I am sure the honourable MPs will be satisfied. It may be recalled that two years ago, there was a lot of hullabaloo over reduction of Access Deficit Charge, but I made a presentation to the Standing Committee. My perception is that all the MPs were satisfied then. I also made another presentation to the Standing Committee on ADC and my perception is that they were satisfied.

Why then has this ADC become the kernel of litigation and we have returned to the dark days of court battles?
As the telecom sector has matured, the players are extremely aggressive. You have to understand that even in the FCC (US), decisions are challenged in court. Case laws will mature, as will the sector and its players. Right now aggression has resulted in a number of cases in TDSAT, the High Court and the Supreme Court.

Another reason connected to the ADC imbroglio is the international call routing scandal?
Whenever and wherever arbitrage is high, there will be a tendency to smuggle. One needs a strong and vigilant system to stop it. When the regulator was considering reduction in this arbitrage, BSNL stated that it had the wherewithal to stop the grey traffic. I am very happy to see that BSNL has shown that they can crackdown on illegal calls.

Take us through the most recent spectrum controversy, why do Ratan Tata and Sunil Mittal have such divergent views on the matter?
I can't comment on why Mr Tata has bid. I believe that there is a market for 3G if the price is right and if 3G is given to the same player then he will vacate 2G spectrum and grow 2G in favour of 3G. My contention is that if you get enough 1800 mhz, then you can auction it, but so far we haven't got it.

But why set up a GoM and shirk responsibility...
I have had discussions on the matter at a bureaucratic level without cutting any ice with the armed forces. So, I am clear that it requires the express intervention of an inter-ministerial group. As a regulator, the best thing to do is to sell spectrum. New operators will come in and set up new networks.

What then are the impediments in your path?
When I sold 2G spectrum, one had to switch to revenue share. I am convinced that taking an upfront price for spectrum in the Indian environment is not right. My 2G experience has shown that. The army says that 3G can be vacated faster than 1800 mhz, while 1900 mhz cannot be given out at all. The army has explained that India is uniquely positioned in a geo-political cum security environment where their demand for spectrum is higher than in other countries.


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