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PAC seeks details from Telecom Min on allegations against TRAI

PTI | Last Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 - 19:51

New Delhi: The Public Accounts Committee, a Parliamentary body, is learnt to have sought details on allegations that telecom regulator TRAI's lowering of spectrum price for next round of auctions favours incumbent mobile operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Loop and Idea.

"PAC has requested this ministry to furnish a detailed factual note to them urgently ... On the points raised in the representation (by NGO Telecom Watchdog) for placing before Chairman, PAC," an official source said.

The NGO Telecom Watchdog, a co-petitioner in 2G spectrum case before the CAG, has on September 11 written to the Comptroller and Auditor General Of India (CAG) and also marked the same to some Members of Parliament. The NGO has alleged that the government is misusing immunity given to the TRAI to pass on benefits worth Rs 1 lakh crore to incumbent players.

On September 9, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had recommended about 62 percent lower base price for premium spectrum in 900 Mhz band which is to be put for auction in next round. It also suggested about 37 percent lower base price for airwaves freed from cancellation of 122 2G licences.

Two days after the recommendations were made to the DoT, the NGO had alleged: "The recommendations have been synchronised to favour Bharti, Vodafone and BPL, whose licences are due for renewal in November 2014 in the two metros. Long term beneficiaries include Idea, whose licenses will come up for renewal in 2015."

The letter written by the NGO's Secretary Anil Kumar questioned TRAI's move of increasing reserve price in three service areas, where the tele-density is low.

"TRAI has strangely increased the reserve price by 1 percent (Assam and West Bengal) to 8.8 percent (Bihar)," the letter said.

As per calculations (based on the last reserve price) by Telecom Watchdog: "Bharti will gain in Delhi Rs 4,332.16 crore, Vodafone in Delhi and Mumbai Rs 8,745.01 crore and BPL (Now Loop) in Mumbai, Rs 4,412.85 crore. Total loss on this account alone would be Rs 17,490 crore to the exchequer."

The NGO had further aadded that it has observed that TRAI has been favouring Bharti, Vodafone and Idea.

"The most recent example of favour is when they fixed termination charges (TC) for SMS at the rate of 7 paisa per SMS. Only these three large operators had been demanding to levy TC for SMS, while all the others had opposed such levy," the NGO said.

Meanwhile, TRAI on Wednesday had reiterated its recommendations for up to 62 percent cut in the reserve or base price for sale of mobile phone radiowaves in the upcoming third round of auction.

The DoT committee, which had referred the matter back to TRAI, is studying the clarifications and is likely to submit its report in the next few days, official sources had said.

The committee's views will be placed before the inter- ministerial body Telecom Commission next week. The stand taken by TC will be placed before the Empowered Group of Ministers on spectrum for a decision.

First Published: Friday, October 25, 2013 - 19:51
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