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Stand by for one more telecom policy

The biggest fallout of the current 2G spectrum controversy will be that all the spectrum for mobile communication will now be priced. They had got additional spectrum free so far. And you could see a policy overhaul all over again. Manoj Gairola writes.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2010 01:18 IST
Manoj Gairola

The biggest fallout of the current 2G spectrum controversy will be that all the spectrum for mobile communication will now be priced. They had got additional spectrum free so far. And you could see a policy overhaul all over again.

After new communications minister Kapil Sibal met telecom industry leaders Ratan Tata (Tata Teleservices), Sunil Mittal (Bharti Airtel) and Anil Ambani (Reliance Communications) this week, the steps seem clearer.

The move will have a major financial impact on old GSM players such as Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Aircel, which are holding spectrum beyond the start-up quota of 4.4 MHz.

The government will have to bring old and new groups to a compromise with a new policy. This is what happened in 2003 when a similar clash between CDMA and GSM operators led to a reconciliation.

Industry consultant Mahesh Uppal said both NDA and UPA governments had taken a "series of irrational decisions" and expected a market regime ahead.

"The only practical way is for the government to arrive at a negotiated settlement between all affected parties," he said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has already recommended market pricing, while the Comptroller and Auditor General estimated that the practise of giving additional spectrum free had cost the exchequer Rs36,993 crore.

In a letter to the telecom minister on Wednesday, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar had insisted that the government bring in transparency.

A department of telecommunications official said no operator had met roll-out obligations. "If the government decides to cancel licences on the basis of not meeting roll-out obligations, the government may have to cancel licences of all the operators," he said.

'3G security concerns to be resolved'

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday security concerns on third-generation (3G) video calls will be resolved soon. "There are security concerns regarding 3G video calls which we are looking into and it will be resolved as soon as possible," Sibal said.