The Centre on Thursday justified in the Supreme Court non-auctioning of 900 MHz spectrum in 2G licences on November 12 along with 1800 and 800 MHz spectrum as it was not the subject matter of 122 licences which were cancelled pursuant to the February 2 judgment.
In an affidavit, the Telecom Secretary R. Chandrasekhar said “no spectrum in the 900 MHz band was put to auction pursuant to the judgment of this Court because no spectrum in the said band of 900 MHz was subject matter of the judgment dated February 2 and further, in any event, there is no available spectrum in this band of 900 MHz. The entire 25 MHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz band available for communication purposes is being fully utilized.”
The Centre gave a chart of licences with date of issue and period of expiry to drive home the point that at the time of expiry from 2014, the band 900 MHz would be available for fresh auction. It said “the spectrum that has been put to auction now is in terms of the final decision taken by the Central Government after duly considering the recommendations of TRAI, Redistribution of 900 MHz spectrum among all the GSM operators would mean fragmenting the spectrum below 5 MHz block. The 900MHz band is valuable from 3G point of view and utilising it for 2G purposes would mean uneconomic use of a valuable commodity. Moreover, by the time the refarming of spectrum is completed, most of the operators would have rolled out their 2G networks and assignment of 900 MHz at that stage may not result in any major advantage to them. Therefore, to exploit the full potential of this band and in line with the international practice, this band should be used to provide IMT services. It is all the more required as the available spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band is also limited and currently only 4 blocks, and that too only of 5MHz each, are being allocated.”
It said on November 12 “spectrum in the 2G bands of 800 MHz and 1800 MHz were put to auction in all 22 service areas, as directed by this Court. A total quantum of 95 MHz of spectrum (CDMA) was put to auction in the 800 MHz band and a total quantum of 295 MHz (GSM) was put to auction in the 1800 MHz band, making a total of 390 MHz (as against the quantum of spectrum of 473.6 MHz (413.6 MHz in 1800 MHz band and 60 MHz in 800 MHz band) allotted to the 122 licensees). In the auction conducted, no bidding interest was expressed for spectrum in the 800 MHz band. The auction for spectrum in the 1800 MHz band which commenced on November 12 concluded on 14 with each participant who bid for spectrum securing the same. There are confirmed bidders for a total of 102 blocks of 1.25 MHz each (i.e 127.5 MHz in toto) of spectrum in the auction for 1800MHz band as against 295 MHz on offer in the auction. There was no spectrum in the 900 MHz band available at all for auction. For this reason, TRAI could not recommend auction of any spectrum in the 900 MHz band and the Central Government could not consider the same. As set forth more fully below, the 900 MHz is an efficient and valuable band, and for this reason, TRAI had recommended that when the licenses of the existing users of spectrum in this band come up for renewal commencing from 2014 onwards (upto 2024), the users may be given spectrum in the 1800 MHz band and the resulting available spectrum in the 900 MHz could be auctioned to enable the optimization of revenue to the Union of India. It submitted that the non-auction of any spectrum in the 900 MHz band does not in any manner contravene the direction of this Court contained in paragraph 81(iii) of its judgment and furthermore there is no available spectrum for auction / allocation in this band.”