New Delhi: The government may refer the issue of allowing foreign players in third generation, or 3G, telephony to an empowered group of ministers (eGoM) as differences between the department of telecom (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) widen.
DoT is in favour of allowing foreign players in the 3G segment, which allows faster data transfer as well as efficient utilization of scarce spectrum, while Trai says it should be limited to existing players as permitting foreign players would negatively affect the affordability of services.
A section in DoT has also expressed concern over Trai’s interference on policy issues and said the regulator’s powers are limited to giving recommendations and the policy has to be framed by the government.
Trai had earlier written to the finance secretary cautioning the ministry over permitting foreign players in 3G services, and also to the telecom secretary, saying there would be enough competition among the existing mobile operators.
Asked whether the issue has been referred to the eGoM, officials said DoT has not taken a final view but a decision is likely soon.
Union communication and IT minister A. Raja is understood to have discussed the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram, officials said, but the outcome of the meetings was not known.
Raja had recently said foreign players would be allowed to offer 3G services and modalities of allocating spectrum through auction for 3G services would be worked out soon as the matter has been referred to the law ministry. India allows 74% foreign direct investment in the telecom sector.
The government is planning to start 3G telecom services in January. The final guidelines for the services as well as for auctioning of spectrum would be announced soon, sources said, adding policy guidelines have been delayed as differen-ces between Trai and DoT ha-ve widened significantly over foreign players’ participation.
According to them, DoT and the finance ministry are in favour of allowing foreign players to bid for 3G spectrum to enhance competition and get a higher value for the scarce resource. But Trai says including foreign players would not only complicate the process but also increase the delay in the 3G rollout.