New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT), struggling to meet the end-August Supreme Court deadline, published the guidelines for the auction of spectrum in the 1,800MHz and 800MHz bands, even as key decisions, including the reserve price of the airwaves, are still to be taken by the cabinet and the empowered group of ministers (eGoM).
“Reserve price, terms of payment, annual spectrum usage charges will be announced separately,” said the note published on DoT website on Wednesday. “The roll-out obligations will be notified separately.”
As a consequence of the 2 February Supreme Court verdict cancelling 122 telecom licences and spectrum allocated to nine companies, the apex court ordered the government to conclude an auction of the 2G spectrum freed up by 2 June. This was then extended to the end of August, after DoT sought an extension of 13 months.
The eGoM was to take a final decision on the issues on 21 June, but this meeting was deferred as the then chairman of the panel, former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, declined to participate in the meeting. Mukherjee resigned on 26 June in order to file nomination papers for the presidential election.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh then appointed agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to head the ministerial panel, which includes commerce minister Anand Sharma, communications minister Kapil Sibal and information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni as members. Pawar first deferred the scheduled Tuesday meeting of the eGoM and then wrote to Singh asking to be recused from the panel, fearing that his name may be dragged into the ongoing 2G scam. On Wednesday, home minister P. Chidambaram allayed concerns that there would be delays in the auction, saying that the eGoM will have a head before it meets again.
As reported by Mint last month, the guidelines say that any company holding a telecom licence (Universal Access Services Licence) or any of the telcos whose licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court can participate in the auction. “In the 1,800MHz band, a minimum of eight blocks each of 1.25MHz (10MHz), will be put to auction in all service areas. In addition, a provision may also be made for spectrum up to three blocks each of 1.25MHz (3.75MHz), wherever available for topping up the eight blocks of spectrum... to meet the requirements of new entrants, if such exigency arises,” the note said.
Similarly, in the case of spectrum in the 800MHz band, there will be three blocks of 1.25MHz up for auction, with more blocks made available, wherever possible, if needed, the note said.
The auction will be a multiple-round, ascending electronic auction, with bidding to be carried out service-area wise starting with the reserve price that is yet to be decided.