NEW DELHI: The telecom department will ask the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Pranab Mukherjee, to take the final call on all issues related to upcoming auction of second generation (2G) bandwidth following the Supreme Court’s move to cancel 122 licences last month.
It has prepared a nine-point agenda for the EGoM that is looking at all issues related to bandwidth allocation. The DoT wants the ministerial panel to decide on the quantum of airwaves to be auctioned, the reserve price for the bandwidth and the mode of auction, according to an internal DoT note reviewed by ET.
It also wants the panel to finalise the annual spectrum charges and additional administrative charges, fee payable to the auctioneer, number of blocks of bandwidth to be sold and also if all incumbent and new players can be permitted to bid.
The EGoM can take up these issues only after telecom regulator Trai makes recommendations on the 2G spectrum sale process, including the reserve price, and also if all players can participate in the sale process. Besides, the Telecom Commission, the highest decision making body of the communications ministry, must also approve the regulator’s proposals before it can be sent to the inter-ministerial panel.
This panel can also make changes to the proposals sent to it by the Telecom Commission. Prior to the 3G and broadband wireless auctions in 2010, the EGoM had doubled the reserve price, allowed foreign players to participate and also reserved a slot for state-owned PSUs.
Recently, the government had reconstituted this EGoM, which was originally set up in 2006, by inducting three new members – the ministers of telecom, defence, and information and broadcasting – while five Cabinet ministers were dropped. Earlier this month, this ministerial panel had decided to earmark the 700 MHz band for offering 4G mobile services dismissing the concerns raised by the information and broadcasting ministry which wanted this bandwidth for mobile TV services.
The telecom department has also constituted five internal committees to oversee the 2G bandwidth sale in addition to setting up an inter-ministerial group that will guide and supervise the upcoming second-generation spectrum sale. The first committee, headed by the department’s Member (Technology), will examine Trai’s recommendations and furnish a detailed report within two-week timeframe.
The second group, headed by the DoT’s finance director Rajeev Prakash, will guide and supervise the auction process. Another panel has been entrusted with selecting the agency to conduct the e-auction, while the forth committee will look at pre-qualification of bidders for the auction. A committee of secretaries, with representatives from the telecom and fiancA© ministries and the Planning Commission, has also been constituted to approve the auction results.
In a related development, the access services wing of the DoT that looks into all operational issues, has said the government must take a slew of important decisions in the wake of the apex court’s February 2 judgement quashing 122 licences. It has pointed out that the DoT was party to tripartite agreements to the bank loans taken by three companies – Unitech Group, Videocon and Tata Teleservices – and added that the department would have to decide if banks must be formally informed on the cancellation of the licences.
This wing also wants clarity on whether these licences would have to be transferred to banks. The access wing has asked the DoT if it should continue allotting numbering resources and extend other technical support such as clearances for new launches to companies whose licences had been quashed.