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Telecom panel holds first meeting

Raja clarifies in Lok Sabha that new telecom licenses would be issued as per the existing policy which does not put any restriction on the number of operators.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2007 20:57 IST

Private telecom operators on Monday met the panel set up to review the spectrum allocation norms recommended by the Telecom Engineering Centre, even as telecommunications minister A Raja said in Parliament that new licenses would be awarded as per the policy framed in 2003.

The committee, headed by Department of Telecom Additional Secretary R Bandhopadhyay and comprising representatives from GSM and CDMA operators, held its first meeting here on Monday.

Sources said GSM-based mobile players such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone Essar argued that the procedure followed by TEC for calculating the spectrum allocation criteria did not have any scientific basis.

On the other hand, CDMA operators such as Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications contended that GSM players already had excess spectrum, the sources said.

TEC had given its report on spectrum allocation norms earlier this month, suggesting manifold increase in subscribers for allocation of additional radio waves.

Communication Minister A Raja had accepted the report in principle, but in view of strong protests from GSM operators the government constituted a panel to revisit the norms.

The committee has to give a report by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, telecom minister A. Raja clarified in Lok Sabha on Monday that that new telecom licenses would be issued as per the existing policy which does not put any restriction on the number of operators.

"We are going to issue new licenses as per the new policy framed in 2003 by the Group of Ministers (GoM) which stated that Unified Access Service (UAS) licenses will be given without any restriction," the telecom minister said replying to a query.

The Minister said the National Telecom Policy of 1999 had the clause that without ensuring spectrum availability new licenses should not issued. But, the new policy in 2003 does not put any restriction on the number of licenses or spectrum availability, he said.

This would help 46 applicants who have put in 575 applications for UAS licenses to get the licenses and spectrum as and when made available. Raja has been maintaining that there still exists potential to bring down mobile tariffs by up to 50 per cent if more players were allowed to start services.

To another query, the Minister categorically said the government has not constituted any GoM to finalise a new spectrum policy.

First Published: Nov 26, 2007 20:06 IST