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New Delhi: The ministerial panel on spectrum issues was on Tuesday unable to decide on the pricing of 2G spectrum held by incumbent operators because of differences among members.

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal

This is the second time in a week that the panel headed by home minister P. Chidambaram has deferred taking a decision on the matter, extending the uncertainty in the sector.

The eGoM, initially set up to look into finalizing rules and regulations for the 2G spectrum auction in the 1,800 megahertz (MHz) and 800MHz bands, was given the additional charge of deciding on the spectrum charge for incumbent operators unaffected by the 2 February Supreme Court ruling.

In a meeting on 3 July, the cabinet asked the eGoM for its recommendations on levying a one-time fee on the operators. The telecom ministry had proposed charging the operators for spectrum they had prospectively, from 31 October 2012, till the date of expiry of the spectrum they have.

Spectrum is allocated for 20 years. Spectrum licences of Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Essar Ltd will expire in some circles next year, while those of Reliance Communications Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd are to expire after 2022.

The Telecom Commission gave the cabinet three options: charging for all spectrum held by the operators; for spectrum above the start-up 4.4MHz; and for spectrum above the contracted 6.2MHz.

The department of telecommunications has recommended that the operators be charged the price found in the spectrum auction. This translates to a minimum of about 18,000 crore for 5MHz across the country.

“Delay and uncertainty will effect the industry at large and clarity would have been a welcome move for the industry..,"said Prashant Singhal, partner in a member firm of Ernst and Young Global.

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