EGoM on spectrum to meet on Oct 3

The Empowered Group of Ministers on Telecom, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, is scheduled to meet on October 3 to decide on the issue of one-time fee on spectrum held by existing telecom operators.

New Delhi: A crucial meeting of a ministerial panel headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram on issues such as levy of one-time spectrum fee on existing telecom operators did not arrive at a final decision today, and will meet again next week.

Besides levy of an auction-discovered fee for spectrum that incumbent mobile phone operators hold, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) was to decide on spectrum refarming and third phase of FM radio expansion, among others issues.

"EGoM has just met. All the issues were discussed threadbare. We will have another meet on (October) 8 when final decision will be taken," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters after a two-and-half-hour long meeting.

The Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, which represents firms like Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications among others, has opposed DoT move to charge all spectrum held by existing telecom players at the rates which new telecom operators will pay in the auction of airwaves due to start in November.

Existing telecom operators were allocated spectrum along with pan-India licences at Rs 1,658 crore only, while new telecom operator will have to pay a minimum of Rs 14,000 crore for spectrum to operate across country.

Sources said EGoM deliberated on increasing number of spectrum blocks for auction in all circles, except Delhi and Mumbai.

The Department of Telecom has already announced in Notice Inviting Application on September 28 that it will provide three additional blocks in 1800 Mhz band spectrum, which were earlier reserved for refarming or reallocation of airwaves to old telecom players whose licences will come up for renewal from 2014 onwards.

DoT has assumed that Defence Ministry will vacate spectrum in circles by the time licences come up for renewal and the same can be used for refarming.

Sources said once EGoM firms up its views on one-time fee to be charged for spectrum held by existing players, the recommendation would be put before the Cabinet for final nod.

DoT, its officials say, has proposed the one-time auction- determined price to create a level-playing field between new entrants and and existing players.

Sibal said that "all the matters that were given to EGoM by cabinet were discussed", without specifically mentioning the agenda for discussion.

According to sources, the EGoM has also been given the task of considering matters relating to e-auction of FM Radio broadcasting services in the light of recommendations made by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.


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