Following the Supreme Court judgment, cancelling all 122 telecom licences issued in 2008, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday said it would discuss and deliberate on how to implement the apex court directions of fresh auction of spectrum. The telecom sector regulator also said it would ensure that no mobile subscriber was affected by the cancellation of licences.

Pointing out that the TRAI had already recommended that all new licences should be issued under Unified Licensing (UL) regime, its Chairman J. S. Sarma told journalists here that spectrum would be delinked from licence and radio waves auctioned to realise its real value. “Under the new licensing regime, telecom companies will have to pay a price for the spectrum determined through auction,” he said.

“In future, all licences will be Unified Licences. This has been discussed by the Telecom Commission as well…it is at an advanced stage of consultation in the government. All these issues will be discussed and decided shortly,” Mr. Sarma said, and hinted that the proposed auction of vacated spectrum would be open to all, including the incumbent players.

Asked how the subscribers of companies whose licences have been cancelled will be affected by the court order, Mr. Sarma said they would not be impacted much. “Subscribers have option to port out through MNP (mobile number portability)…we will instruct operators to inform their subscribers and come out with an advertisement. Less than 5 per cent of the total subscribers (89.38 crore as on 2011-end) are there with operators who got licences in 2008,” he noted.

Mr. Sarma also said that the TRAI would keep a close eye on any upward revision of mobile tariffs that was expected due to high price of spectrum.

The eight companies that got 122 licences in 2008 are: Uninor (a joint venture between Unitech and Norway's Telenor), Sistema Shyam (joint venture between Sistema of Russia and India's Shyam Group), Etisalat DB (joint venture between Etisalat of the UAE and DB Group, formerly Swan), S Tel (a joint venture between Bahrain Telecommunications and Siva Group), Videocon, Tata Telecom, Idea Cellular and Loop Telecom.