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Telecom panel sees auction missing 31 August deadline

Telecom panel sees auction missing 31 August deadline

New Delhi: The inter-ministerial panel overseeing the 2G spectrum policy has concluded that it would not be possible for the government to complete the spectrum auction by 31 August, as directed by the Supreme Court.

The note says the auctioneer will also need adequate time to design a specific process because of the complexity and there would also be a need to certify the selected auctioneer’s software and hardware, which “will take some time".

The panel includes six representatives from DoT as well as representatives from the department of economic affairs, department of information technology, Planning Commission, department of industrial policy and promotion and the commerce ministry.

According to a DoT official, the next meeting of the panel will take place shortly, with a new person as the head. However, the panel’s proposal for an extension on the Supreme Court deadline will need approval from the group of ministers before the DoT can approach the apex court.

In a 2 February verdict, the court cancelled 122 licences and spectrum given to nine companies and ordered that the radio waves be auctioned again by 2 June. The DoT approached the court seeking 400 days to complete the auction, which would have taken till March 2013. The court, however, gave the DoT till 31 August to complete the auction.

The delay in getting the auction done is mainly because of the inability of a panel of ministers to decide on key aspects, including the reserve price at which the potential bidders can start bidding. Other issues include the terms of payment for the spectrum won as well as the annual spectrum usage charges to be paid by the winning bidders.

The panel was expected to take these decisions by 22 June, but then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee deferred the decision because he wanted to contest the presidential elections. Mukherjee was the chairman of the panel.

Subsequently, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar was asked to head the panel, which was to meet on 3 July. Pawar first deferred the meeting on that day and then wrote to the Prime Minister asking to be recused.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has decided that the group of ministers would have recommendatory powers only and the final decision on price and timing for sale of airwaves will be taken by the cabinet.

Two ministers in the council of ministers said this could further delay a decision on the policy.

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