Union Communications and Information Technology Minister A. Raja on Tuesday sought the intervention of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in clearing the decks to initiate the process for auction of 3G spectrum, and holding the Defence Ministry responsible for the slippage in the process.
The Defence Ministry has decided to release only 3G spectrum that is to be auctioned, that too in phases. “Because of the stand taken by the Defence Ministry, which is not plausible and against the decisions of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), there has been slippage in the original schedule of auction. If this issue is not resolved quickly, I apprehend that the revenues anticipated from 3G auction may not be forthcoming this year,” Mr. Raja said in a letter to Mr. Mukherjee.
The auction of 3G spectrum or radio waves was to have been completed by the end of the year, but the Telecom Ministry has not yet issued the information memorandum that lists eligibility conditions, rules of auction, and the details of spectrum for want for clarity from the Defence Ministry.
“I request you to kindly intervene in this matter so as to enable the 3G auctions to be completed during this year. You may also consider holding a meeting with Defence Minister A.K. Antony on the matter,” Mr. Raja said in the letter.
The government projected up to a Rs.35,000-crore collection from the sale of spectrum in the current financial year, mainly from the 3G auction.
But going by the current pace, the process is likely to be delayed by several months.
The EGoM had decided to auction four blocks of spectrum in each circle (one block has already been allotted to two telecom Public Sector Units) and announced a reserve price of Rs.3,500 crore for pan-India 3G spectrum. With the Ministry of Defence not releasing the radio waves, the Department of Telecommunications has been unable to issue a revised schedule of auctions and an information manual.
Mr. Raja said global players had shown keen interest in participating in the auction. But if this was delayed beyond a point they might lose interest, causing huge financial loss to the government.