PM favours return of excess spectrum from mobile firms

PM favours return of excess spectrum from mobile firms

New Delhi: Dubbing it as a ‘national resource’, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have favoured return of spectrum from any telecom operator who is found to have airwaves in excess of the contractual obligation.

A suggestion to this effect is understood to have been made by Singh when Union communication minister A. Raja met him on 30 November.

While there was no official comment on the meeting, sources indicated that the Prime Minister did not favour referring the issue of spectrum allocation to an empowered group of ministers, as suggested by some of his cabinet colleagues.

The CDMA operators, led by Reliance Communications Ltd, and rival GSM service providers, led by Bharti Airtel Ltd, have been at loggerheads ever since the department of telecom (DoT) proposed the new norms for allocating additional airwaves that are crucial for expanding services.

The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), a technical wing of DoT, has suggested 2-15 times increase in subscriber base for GSM operators to become eligible for additional tranche of spectrum.

While GSM players have opposed the new norms, CDMA firms are demanding surrender of excess spectrum from existing GSM companies.

According to DoT sources, top GSM operators have got more than the contracted obligation of 6.2MHz of frequency (in some cases the contracted quantity is only 4.4MHz).

Some members of Parliament, especially Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party, have raised the issue of surrender of surplus spectrum.

While Anil Ambani, in a series of letters to the Prime Minister, accused the GSM operators of hoarding spectrum, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal refuted this, saying Ambani should put his mathematics in order.

Meanwhile, telecom secretary D.S. Mathur is understood to have called a meeting of all mobile operators today in a bid to end the stalemate.

The meeting comes even as an official committee, which is reviewing the TEC’s recommendations on spectrum allocation, is yet to submit its final report.