Spectrum auction document on 22 August

The government is likely to issue the final document for auction of telecom spectrum on 22 August, two weeks later than previously scheduled. An Empowered Group of Ministers [EgoM], headed by the home minister P Chidambaram, is believed to have on 12 July approved the new date of 22 August for the issue of Information Memorandum [IM], government sources said.

IM was previously scheduled to be issued on 6 August. The new schedule is largely due to delay in finalising the pricing of spectrum or airwaves.  Sources said that the EGoM may meet next on 18 July to discuss key issue of spectrum price as the new schedule is linked to finalisation of auctioneer, the agency which will operate the auction process. As per the new schedule, auctioneers have been asked to submit bids by 20 July and which can be only after government finalises minimum spectrum price from which the auction of airwaves will start.

The government is already running against time to meet the 31 August deadline set by the Supreme Court for auction of spectrum vacated from cancellation of 122 licences issued in 2008. The 20-day delay in finalising auction details has put government on the brink of uncertainty in spectrum auction. The government will have only nine days left for 13 processes that will have to be completed before actual bidding for airwaves starts.

This includes important steps of responding to queries of the potential bidders, notice for inviting applications and time for its submission by companies, finalising eligible bidders, public information session, mock auction among others.

The time taken for auction of airwaves for 3G and wireless broadband services was cumulatively 50 days. The 3G auction was completed in 34 days after completion of 183 rounds of bidding while BWA auction took 16 days to end after 117 rounds of bidding.

In the upcoming auction, potential auctioneers will get only three days to make presentation on the model that they will use for conducting e-auction after the declaration of eligible auctioneers on 20 July. The auctioneer will be finalised on 26 July for which the earlier proposed date was 10 July.


Noting that the telecom industry is going through an uncertain regulatory phase, the top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla has said the proposed changes in regulations and policy framework are causing havoc in the sector.

Birla, who heads leading business conglomerate Aditya Birla Group that is present in telecom business through Idea Cellular, said the proposed policy changes towards spectrum auctioning, pricing and refarming bode ill for the sector. ‘... the changes in regulation proposed would hurt the industry irretrievably. It remains to be seen what shape regulation will actually take.

 Regulatory and policy change are causing havoc in the sector,’ he said.‘Regrettably, the telecom sector is going through a phase of uncertain regulatory environment,’ he said, while listing out the performance of various businesses in his annual letter to the shareholders of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, a holding company for the group’s telecom, fashion and apparel, financial services and manufacturing businesses.


With the joint parliamentary committee [JPC] on the 2G scam racing against time to complete its report by December, the panel chief P C Chacko has started meeting members to trim down the list of witnesses, even as he asserted that the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would not be called despite suggestions.

'I have ruled out calling Vajpayee and the former defence minister George Fernandes as witnesses due to their ill health,' Chacko said. He lamented that the names of Vajpayee and Fernandes cropped up in the list of suggested witnesses prepared by the JPC secretariat. 'There were suggestions. I lament that their names were there... there is no question of calling them,' he said.

While Vajpayee's name was suggested as he had held the telecom portfolio after Jagmohan resigned during the National Democratic Alliance [NDA] rule, Fernandes had headed a GoM on telecom in the NDA regime. During one of the meetings, the BJP's Yashwant Sinha had reacted angrily to the inclusion of Vajpayee's name in the list.

The sources said that there was general feeling in the committee that ministers, both former and present, were not required to be called before it as sufficient material was available with it to prepare report as per the terms and reference of the JPC.

Chacko said he has started meeting members individually to finalise the list of witnesses by seeking to delete names which are 'not relevant'. 'The committee feels that there should be no more extension. I am meeting all the 30 members individually to finalise the list of witnesses.

Names not essential should be deleted as some names earlier suggested by members could not be relevant today,' he said. He said next week the CBDT will depose, followed by the CBI.
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