Expect spectrum sharing, trading norms in three months: Telecom Secretary
New Delhi: The government is expected to finalise most-awaited spectrum sharing and trading guidelines in three months, said Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg on March 30.
"Spectrum sharing and trading guidelines are now one of key things in our agenda. The TRAI has already given its recommendations. In next three months we will be in position to give out spectrum sharing and trading guidelines," said Garg in an interview. He said that the Department of Telecom has almost finalised new penalty rules which should be out in one-and- a-half months. Spectrum sharing guidelines will allow telecom companies to share their unutilised airwaves with other service providers in the same telecom circle.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last year recommended sharing of all categories of telecom airwaves held by operators including spectrum allocated at old price of Rs 1,658 crore or assigned without auction. The regulator also recommended to allow trading of spectrum. As of now, only government is allowed to allocate spectrum to telecom firms through auctions. Once the trading is allowed, it is expected to increase efficient use of radiowaves by enabling telecom operators, who have a lower subscriber base or unutilised spectrum, to trade in it. Telecom operators Sistema Shyam Teleservices and Telewings (Uninor), which missed to buy spectrum in the auction that ended last week, are waiting for these guidelines to expand their businesses. Garg said that with these guidelines companies will be able to lower the cost of spectrum and operate more efficiently.
The spectrum auction concluded on March 25 fetched government bids worth Rs 1,09,874.91 crore which is about 35 per cent higher than the base price. The government was criticised by industry for fixing higher reserve price. Garg said that final auction price has proved that government's calculation of reserve price was right and industry has invested in buying spectrum after assessing business case. The Telecom Secretary said that as per an analysis, annual impact on operators would be around Rs 5,300 crore and impact on calls rates will be about 1.3 paise per minute.
He rebutted charges that government designed auction with interest to maximise its revenues. "If this was our intention, why we would have offered extra spectrum in auction? The auction that came up from expiring licences was about 35 per cent of total spectrum put for sale. The 2100 Mhz band spectrum auction was pending since last 7-8 years. Our Minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) showed will to resolve it and we were able to get 5 Mhz of 2100 Mhz band for auction," said Garg.