Never recommended any telecom spectrum auction: TRAI
In a development that may help jailed former Telecom Minister's A Raja's defence in court, the telecom regulator has informed the CBI that TRAI did not recommend the auction of 2G spectrum in 2007, implying that there was no loss to the exchequer in the award of licences.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has informed the CBI that neither did it recommend the auction of scarce telecom spectrum, nor did it recommend any increase in the entry fees of new entrants in the sector between the years 2003 and 2007.
However, the regulator said it is not possible to "predict with certainty" the precise value of spectrum that could have been earned from the auction of telecom waves.
These points may bolster the defence of former Telecom Minister A Raja in court, as they show that the exchequer did not suffer any losses in the award of licences to nine companies in 2008 at seven-year-old prices of 2001.
The telecom regulator said it did not recommend "any price" for spectrum beyond 6.2 megahertz except in August, 2007, when it suggested the imposition of extra charges on telecom waves held by service providers beyond 10 Mhz of spectrum.
In its communication to the CBI dated August 20, TRAI Secretary R K Arnold said, "TRAI repeatedly held the view that telecom services and spectrum should not be treated as a source of revenue for the government. It is against this background that TRAI did not recommend any increase in the entry fee for new players, by way of indexation or otherwise."
"It similarly did not recommend any price for spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz except in August, 2007, where too, additional charges were recommended only for spectrum beyond 10 MHz," he said.
Earlier, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had also asserted there was "zero loss" to the exchequer.
TRAI's statement came in response to a CBI request to fix the losses suffered in the award of licences, as several figures were doing rounds. The Comptroller and Auditor General had pegged the loss between Rs 57,000 crore and Rs 1.76 lakh crore, depending on the method used for calculation.
The CBI had earlier projected the loss at around Rs 22,000 crore. However, it increased the figure to Rs 30,000 crore in its first chargesheet in the case.
The agency wanted the regulator to set up a team of experts for a definitive calculation of the losses arising out of the allocation of licences during the 2001-08 period, which could stand up to legal scrutiny in court.
However, the TRAI advice buttresses the points put forth by Raja, Behura and other accused in the case that there was no loss suffered by the exchequer in the award of 122 licences to telecom companies at 2001 prices.