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CDMA spectrum: Standoff continues as TRAI questions DoT again

PTI | Last Updated: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - 19:33

New Delhi: The uncertainty over CDMA spectrum auction continues as the telecom regulator and the DoT are relentlessly seeking clarifications from each other on nitty-gritty of the issue.

The last in the series of exchange of letters between the two is the regulator writing to the Department of Telecom (DoT) seeking clarity on the reason for making a reference to section 25 of TRAI Act of 1997 while seeking base price of the airwaves.

"DoT in their last communication has given reference of section 25 but there was no clarity as to why they have referred to it. TRAI has asked them to clarify the reason for referring section 25," a source said.

The communication was sent to DoT on December 24.

The Section 25, which is about the government's power to issue direction to the TRAI, says the regulator will "be bound by such directions on questions of policy as the central government may give in writing to it from time to time".

DoT has also informed TRAI that Cabinet has asked the Telecom Ministry to expedite the process for CDMA auction.

The DoT and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have locked horns on auction of CDMA spectrum.

The Department approached TRAI on December 12, fourth letter within six months, seeking its recommendation on minimum price that should be fixed for CDMA spectrum.

In its meeting held on December 9, the Cabinet directed Telecom Ministry "that the reserve price of spectrum in 800 Mhz (CDMA) band be also finalised expeditiously," sources said.

TRAI on December 13 responded asking the DoT to confirm as to whether its views, alongwith DoT's observations, were placed before the EGoM and if the ministerial panel had sought fresh recommendations on the issue.

Sources said that the DoT today confirmed to the TRAI that both their observations were placed last month before the EGoM on telecom, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The regulator had in September recommended against the auction of CDMA spectrum and suggested that the government explore as to whether a part of 800 Mhz could be used for a E-GSM services.

The DoT had explained to Trai that E-GSM band required vacation of spectrum by the Defence Ministry, which is likely to take time. In this scenario, it added, keeping unsold spectrum in the 800 Mhz (CDMA) band would result in revenues foregone for the government.

On December 13, the Trai had asked the DoT if it has examined the possibility of making alternate arrangements for the spectrum that needs to be vacated by the defence which is hampering path for E-GSM service.

Official sources said the DoT has also informed the Trai that the process for shifting of defence assignments to other frequency had not started yet.

The DoT had also clarified to TRAI that spectrum auctioned in November and thereafter were liberalised which means that any technology can be used in these auctioned airwaves frequencies for providing mobile telephony.

First Published: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - 19:33
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