New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will head a high-powered ministerial panel tasked with the onus of deciding on auction of telecom spectrum, a top DoT official said today.
The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has been reconstituted after Pranab Mukherjee, who was heading it, resigned as Finance Minister to contest the Presidential elections.
“The EGoM will now be headed by Pawar,” Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar said, adding the panel is scheduled to meet on Monday to decide on issues relating to auction of telecom spectrum.
The EGoM meeting was scheduled for 21 June but was deferred as Mukherjee did not want to sit on a judgement on such an important issue as he is entering Presidential race.
In February 2012, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 2G telecom licences issued during the tenure of former telecom minister A Raja, and asked the government to complete spectrum auction by 31 August.
According to official sources, decisions taken by earlier EGoM will not be changed as the government is in continuation.
The high-level panel in the last meeting on 5 June had firmed up the schedule for the auction of 10 Mhz of airwaves in 8 slots of 1.25 Mhz each in the frequency band which is currently used for 2G GSM services.
The EGoM also finalised auction of 3.75 Mhz of airwaves in the band currently used for CDMA services.
Sectoral regulator TRAI has recommended base price of Rs 3,622 for one megahertz of spectrum to be auctioned and over Rs 18,000 crore price for pan-Indian operations.
Bidders for spectrum used for CDMA services will have to pay double of this price as per last decision taken by Telecom Commission, inter-ministerial panel at telecom ministry.
The upcoming meeting on Monday is crucial for the telecom sector as EGoM will decide on future course of action by companies.
The issues, specially pricing of spectrum, have to be sorted out early to meet Supreme Court set deadline.
The decision taken by this EGoM will set the tone for telecom industry which is facing uncertainty and threat from foreign investors to exit from country if the decision does not suits them.
Both CDMA and GSM players have opposed the high spectrum price. The industry feels that high spectrum price will increase the tariff of telecom services in the range of 30 to 100 percent.
Also, Sistema JSFC, majority stakeholder in Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), has said that it will quit India telecom business if the minimum price for bidding is not brought down to reasonable level.
SSTL is one of the companies whose mobile services permits were cancelled by the Supreme Court in February. They will have to obtain spectrum through auction to continue their services.
The pricing decision is also crucial for existing GSM service providers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, as government has proposed to redistribute airwaves at the time of renewal of their licences at double of the minimum price recommended by Trai.