New Delhi: India’s Central Vigilance Commission, or CVC, could initiate a formal enquiry if the department of telecommunications, or DoT, is unable to explain the rationale behind not allocating scarce radio spectrum to mobile phone service firms through an open auction.
DoT, instead, choose to hand frequency rights on the basis of a formula linked to the number of subscribers and when applications for spectrum were made. Radio spectrum or frequency refers to the airwaves that allow communication between wireless devices such as mobile phones and walkie-talkie radios.
CVC is in the process of identifying officials at DoT who made the decision on allocation of spectrum and its pricing. “A logical next step for us would be to identify the people behind these decisions,” said a senior CVC official, who requested not to be identified because the watchdog was still finalizing its course of action. “What we have realized from our own analysis is that the only way one can discover the price of a scarce resource such as spectrum is by holding an auction.”
“We are already in dialogue with CVC on this, and cannot comment beyond that,” said a senior DoT official, asking not to be identified.
As reported by Mint on 11 April, CVC had sought additional details about the government’s rationale for not allocating radio spectrum through an auction, and has also asked the department to explain its policy of first-come-first-served.
“DoT needs to convince us as to why and how 2G radio spectrum was (and is going to be) allocated without arriving at a market-driven price,” the CVC official added. Second generation or 2G technology refers to phone networks that offer primarily voice services and not high-speed data and video offerings made on what is called new so-called third generation or 3G networks.
CVC had also asked questions about DoT’s policy to allow operators such as Reliance Communications Ltd or RCom, among others, to offer phone services based on both GSM and CDMA platforms. GSM, short for global system for mobile communications, and code division multiple access or CDMA are rival mobile phone technologies.
Some telecom experts, such as Rajat Kathuria, say DoT’s decision-making machinery needs an overhaul. This is required “since the current expertise at the department still carries (the public sector) legacy,” the professor at the International Management Institute, New Delhi, said.
DoT’s wireless planning and coordination wing, which is responsible for spectrum allocation, has about six officials managing the entire process.