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PMO intervenes in spectrum war

Highly placed sources say PMO has stepped in to take into its own hands the complex tangle over allocation of licences and spectrum for telecom operators, reports Archana Khatri.

business Updated: Nov 21, 2007 20:41 IST
Archana Khatri

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has stepped in to take into its own hands the complex tangle over allocation of licences and spectrum for telecom operators, highly placed sources told

Hindustan Times


While industry leaders from both the GSM and CDMA technology based firms met DS Mathur, secretary in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Wednesday, sources said that a senior official in the PMO has instructed the DoT not to issue letters of intent (LoIs) to any of the 46 new licence aspirants until further advice.

New applicants are considering court action to expedite the LoIs, while GSM players are locked in a courtroom tussle with the government on spectrum.

Before meeting the incumbent telecom operators in his office, Mathur met a senior official in the PMO, sources said.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath is also believed to have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention on the issue.

Anil Ambani, the chairman of CDMA player Reliance Communications, and Vodafone chief Arun Sarin had also shot off letters to the prime minister on the matter.

DoT had also made a presentaion to the Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday about spectrum availability and policy, spectrum allocation criteria, the committee studying allocation of spectrum and the use of both CDMA and GSM technology spectrum by universal access service licence holders.

Principal Secrtary to the Prime Minister, the Finance Secretary, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary were also present at the meeting.

Mathur met GSM and CDMA operators at a joint meeting on Wednesday and also separately met each group.

Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Asim Ghosh of Vodafone Essar, Sanjeev Aga of Idea Cellular, BK Modi of Spice Communications were among the GSM leaders, while Anil Sardana of Tata Teleservices, Reliance's Anil Ambani and HFCL's Mahendra Nahata were among the CDMA players, who are also expanding into GSM services.

GSM operators, who are clamouring for more spectrum, oppose the rule of allocation linked to subscriber growth recommended by the industry regulator and accepted by the DoT, and also the specific criteria for this enunciated by the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC).