Communications and IT minister A. Raja on Tuesday said that the controversy regarding allotting licences and spectrum to new operators was politically motivated. “That is why it is coming up again and again despite fact that the whole issue has been explained on various platforms,” Raja told Hindustan Times. “This is a result of corporate war.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court sent him a notice seeking response to a plea from public interest litigations (PILs) for tracking the progress of the CBI probe.
Raja said some of the operators want a bailout package for the new telecom service providers who were issued licences in January, 2008. “This issue was discussed in the last meeting between the operators and the telecom ministry,” the minister said.
“Telecom Commission is looking into the issue,” he said. Telecom Commission is the highest decision making authority on this issue. Currently, there are no guidelines on surrendering of licences.
Some operators have asked the government to return their licence fee as they want to surrender their licences. New telecom service providers are finding it difficult to operate services. At least two new operators have not yet launched services. Officials say they have given indication that would like to surrender their licences.
Raja issued licences and start up 2G spectrum to six new operators in January, 2008 on first-come-first-served basis at a price of R1,650 crore for pan-India operations.
It is alleged that the government could have earned much more revenue if the licences and spectrum were auctioned. The government earned R67,000 crore by auctioning four slots of 3G spectrum.
Raja’s argument is that he simply followed the existing policy when he issued licences to new operators on first-come-first-served basis.
He said that his predecessors both in the UPA and the NDA regime had allotted new licences, until just a couple of months prior to his joining the ministry, under the same policy and the same price.
Raja also argues that the licences were issued under the new telecom policy that says that the prices of telecom
services should be affordable. He says that 3G services are for elite.