SC seeks Centre's response on fresh auction of 2G spectrum

SC seeks Centre's response on fresh auction of 2G spectrum New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday sought an explanation from Government for restricting the sale of 2G spectrum through fresh auction scheduled for November 12.

The apex court sought response of the Department of Telecom on the plea by an association of GSM mobile operators seeking inclusion of airwaves allocated to two Tata Group companies in the fresh auction of 122 cancelled licenses 2G spectrum.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan, which posted the matter for tomorrow, said "We have a simple question to the solicitor (government's counsel). Whatever spectrum was vacated by cancellation of 122 licences should be put to auction?"
The court was hearing the plea of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) seeking a direction for auction 170 MHz more spectrum in the bidding scheduled to begin on Nov 12.

COAI, an apex body of GSM operators, has sought the apex court's direction that all spectrum vacated by the cancellation of 122 telecom licences by the Feb 2 verdict should be put up for auction.

By "hoarding" scarce natural resources, the government is trying to "jack up" the price of spectrum, the COAI's counsel said in the court.

COAI has also sought apex court's direction to quash 83 MHz spectrum allotted to the Tata group under the dual-technology licence in 2008 and auction it.

The court said it will consider the issue of "hoarding" and will consider the plea against Tata's spectrum after that.

According to COAI, 514 MHz of spectrum should be vacated following the cancellation of 122 licences and de-allocation of 83 MHz spectrum to Tatas.

Five companies - Bharti Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Videocon and Telenor-promoted Telewings - are likely to participate in the fresh auction.

The apex court on October 18 had sought a response of the Centre on the plea of COAI seeking inclusion of airwaves allocated to two Tata Group companies in the fresh auction along with 122 cancelled 2G spectrum licenses.

The court had also issued a notice to the DoT on a plea by a telecom firm questioning its decisions to restrict the sale of airwaves to be auctioned.

The COAI, which represents GSM operators Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone has sought cancellation of licence and GSM spectrum of Tata group companies, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML) for inclusion in the fresh auction.

COAI has sought to include Tata's spectrum of 83.6 MHz allocated in 2008 along with the 122 2G licences in the fresh auction contending that TTSL and TTML received the radiowaves in pursuance of the same press releases through which the other 122 licences were granted.

PTI