Trai to govt: Auction only after releasing more spectrum

Trai said that unless alternate methods are not explored the entire policy goals of the government such as ‘Digital India’ would collapse.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: November 25, 2014 1:26:25 am

Sticking to its stand that auction should only be held if the government is able to release sufficient spectrum, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday asked the Centre to explore alternate ways (other than auctions) of allocating radio waves to the mobile operators.

In its 38-page response to the government, which had wanted the regulator to reconsider its stand on holding a mega auction by releasing more spectrum and a simultaneous bidding process for 2G and 3G spectrum, the Trai said that unless alternate methods are explored the policy goals of the government such as ‘Digital India’ and broadband connectivity would collapse.

Trai chairman Rahul Khullar said that a public debate on alternate ways of allocating spectrum should begin now or else we would never be able to solve the problem of spectrum shortage in the country. “I can only repeat what wise people have said before: The risk of a wrong decision is better than the terror of indecision,’’ Khullar added.

The communication to the department of telecommunicatons (DoT) clearly brings out the urgency towards exploring alternate means when it says, “spectrum availability in India for commercial use, as a whole is about the lowest in the world … It is important to recognise that auctions are not the only way spectrum is allocated. Even in jurisdictions where far larger quantities of spectrum are available for commercial deployment, different approaches are being taken.”

Underlining the importance of alternate means has also been stressed by the Trai since so far the government has failed to release more spectrum for commercial use. “For the past seven years (or more) a dialogue has taken place between the DoT and ministry of defence to release additional quantities of spectrum. To be perfectly candid, this dialogue has gone nowhere, i.e. it has remained inconclusive,” the Trai has said.

It has even given the example of Japan which has never used auctions to allocate spectrum or Nordic countries where spectrum is allocated at a nominal price but with onerous roll-out obligations. FE

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