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Spectrum an all-party affair

When seen in context of time, the Opposition parties’ demand for a JPC on the ongoing telecom scam would be like the snake that ate his own tail.

delhi Updated: Nov 19, 2010 01:31 IST
HT Correspondent

When seen in context of time, the Opposition parties’ demand for a JPC on the ongoing telecom scam would be like the snake that ate his own tail.

Raja’s predecessors, Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran, too issued new licences and 2G spectrum at the 2001 price —in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

As a result, the irregularities in allocation of spectrum will become an all-party affair.

“The ministry of finance, right from 2003, quoting international practices and scarcity factor had maintained that auction of spectrum and its trading under a regulatory framework could induce competition and transparency in the system and would result in most efficient utilisation of spectrum,” a November 16 report of the CAG said.

Shourie was the communications minister in 2003. During his regime, the government amended the New Telecom Policy 1999 and allowed CDMA players Reliance and Tata to offer full mobile services. The licence fee they were asked to pay was determined on the basis of a 2001 auction.

Shourie was the minister when DoT issued 26 licences — to Bharti Airtel, Dishnet Weireless, Tata Teleservices and Vodafone — between January 2004 and April 2004.

After Maran took charge in May 2004, the DoT issued 23 licences to private players — to Aircel, Dishnet Wireless and Vodafone Essar — again at a price determined in 2001, on a first-come-first-served basis — 22 licences were issued in 2006 and one in 2007.

During the tenures of both Shourie and Maran, licences for operating telecom services were issued to companies that were already providing services in some circles in the country. However, licences are issued circle-wise and new licences are not linked to old licences.

Raja joined the ministry in 2007. During his regime 122 new licences were issued.

“It was not in the interest of the incumbent operators to go for auction of spectrum. Hence they kept quiet when they were issued licences at 2001 prices,” said an industry representative.

Similarly, incumbent operators were issued spectrum beyond contracted quantity — free of cost.