A noting from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), interpreted by a section of media as PM Manmohan Singh looking the other way on the spectrum issue, had nothing to do with the grant of licence or spectrum charges, the PMO clarified on Sunday.
In a noting dated January 23, 2008, PM's private secretary said Singh wanted to be kept "at arm's length" on an issue relating to allocation of spectrum.
The PMO said the file in question was not on grant of licence or spectrum pricing, but on creating a level playing field between existing operators and new entrants.
The note of the PMO, on which the said noting was recorded, dealt only with nitty gritty of spectrum management.
The PMO said the note proposed consideration of an approach to fix a threshold level of spectrum that each operator must have to function with a minimum level of efficiency. It also talked of new operators being allotted spectrum only up to the threshold level on payment of normal fees.
The PMO's note proposed an approach that existing operators holding spectrum above the threshold level may be allowed a certain amount of time to raise the subscriber levels to reach full utilisation of spectrum, failing which the excess spectrum may be withdrawn. It suggested the balance spectrum could then be auctioned among all those who held spectrum up to the threshold level.
The PMO on Sunday said unwarranted inferences had been drawn from the noting without factoring in the context in which the directions were conveyed. Sources said the PMO issued the clarification after Montek Singh Ahluwalia drew Singh's attention to Karan Thapar's column in HT on Sunday.