The government expects to raise Rs50,000-55,000 crore from the auction of spectrum for so-called third generation (3G) mobile phone services and broadband wireless access, higher than its budgetary estimate of Rs35,000 crore, telecom minister A. Raja said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What are your expectations? What is the total amount that the government is expected to gather from these auctions?
I do feel that it may cross Rs40,000 crore. Considering the motivation that has been shown by the operators, the gravity of the participation that has been shown so far for the past 15 days, right from the first day when the actual process was started, I feel that it may cross Rs40,000 crore. And adding WiMax to that, the total amount may cross Rs50,000-55,000 crore.
There are some analysts who are saying that the bids may be getting slightly irrational. Do you agree with that point of view?
No, I do not accept that view at all. Everything was earlier put on the website, including the modalities of the auction process. There was no question earlier. Having started the process, having attained this stage, I think some frustrated forces must be there. It will be the voice of these frustrated forces—those who are not able to get it, or those who are not able to cope with the auction process—I think they are propagating these views.
High hopes: A. Raja. PIB
Some reports are saying that even 2G should have been auctioned like this. What do you have to say about that?
Complete rubbish. With all sincerity I must tell you that it is complete nonsense. It is not a matter of shame. It is a matter of pride. Right from 1999, since the existence of the National Telecom Policy 1999, 2G spectrum has been considered a common service, and 3G services are value-added services. I can ask a simple, parallel, legitimate question: imagine the PDS (public distribution system) rice—ordinary rice that is offered by the state government cannot be equated with basmati rice. Ordinary rice must be given at the rate of Rs5 or Rs10 or Rs2 per kg, like the Tamil Nadu government is giving. A person cannot immediately ask a rational question as to why basmati rice then costs Rs100 or Rs200 per kg. That rice is basmati, this rice is PDS. 2G is nothing but PDS, that is being offered to common people—those people who are living in grass-roots order. 3G is value-added service, it has to give revenues. If anybody wanted to compare 2G and 3G, the comparison in itself is foolishness.
BSNL and MTNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd) being PSUs (public sector units), have also sought a waiver from this spectrum fee. Is that something that the government is going to grant them?
No, that has to be decided by the telecom commission. Thereafter, it will be referred to the finance ministry. As the father of the PSUs, I will always bargain that the PSUs must be given some immunity.