Allegations around allocation of microwave spectrum baseless, says telecom minister Manoj Sinha

New Delhi: Under attack for giving away valuable telecom spectrum without auction, the government on Wednesday strongly defended administrative allocation of microwave spectrum, saying the bidding rules do not apply to backhaul airwaves, which are critical for maintaining connectivity.

With Congress calling allocation of microwave spectrum a scam, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha cited the 2012 Supreme Court ruling, which had cancelled allocations done on the first-come-first-serve basis, to say that backhaul spectrum was not covered under the judgment.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report tabled in Parliament last week said microwave access (MWA) spectrum was allocated to a telecom operator in 2015 on first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis in contravention to the recommendations of a DoT-constituted committee, while 101 applications for microwave spectrum were pending with the government.

Allegations around allocation of microwave spectrum baseless, says telecom minister Manoj Sinha

File image of telecom minister Manoj Sinha. Image. Reuters

"I want to say that the SC order of 2012 was about access spectrum and not backhaul spectrum. It is not one service provider but all those who were genuine, were given microwave spectrum on an administrative basis, before and after the order," Sinha told reporters here.

The Congress had, earlier this week, demanded a probe into the matter following findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that a set of spectrum was allocated in 2015 on first-come-first-served basis in contravention to recommendations of a committee. The Congress had alleged that the CAG had found that various instances of spectrum mismanagement by the Department of Telecom (DoT) had caused a loss of around Rs 560 crore to the public exchequer.

"The allegations are baseless and without any evidence," Sinha said.

The minister asserted that so far the backhaul spectrum has not been auctioned, but allocated administratively, and added that telecom regulator too had recommended the same.

To a specific question on whether there is a decision to auction such spectrum, the minister said, "So far there is no decision...we are neither considering it nor studying". He said adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that whenever the government takes a decision, those allotted such spectrum will have to pay up, retrospectively.

Sinha also defended the decision on deferred spectrum liability, saying extending the period of making payments to 16 years would bring an additional Rs 74,446 crore to government coffers.

"When the inter-ministerial group gave recommendation (on the matter), it gave consideration to net present value and the same was the case with the Telecom Department and Telecom Commission, so the entire matter was well thought out, to see how urgent relief can be given to the sector without causing loss to exchequer," he said.

 

 

To keep watching India’s No. 1 English Business News Channel – CNBC-TV18, call your Cable or DTH Operator and ask for the Colors Family Pack (inclusive of 24 channels), available for Rs. 35/- per month, or subscribe to the channel for Rs. 4/- per day.

To keep watching the Leader in Global Market & Business News – CNBC-TV18 Prime HD, call your Cable or DTH Operator and ask for the Colors Family HD Pack (inclusive of 25 channels), available for Rs. 50/- per month, or subscribe to the channel for Rs. 1/- per day.

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Jan 16, 2019 19:15:42 IST

Also See