4G spectrum allocation to BSNL, MTNL back to square one
TRAI has told the telecom dept that allocation of the coveted spectrum to the public sector entities without calling for auctions was a policy decision of the govt.
Trai has told the telecom department that allocation of the coveted spectrum to the public sector entities without calling for auctions was a policy decision of the government and that it had no role in it.
“Earlier this week, Trai wrote to the DoT (Department of Telecommunication) that the allocation of the spectrum to public-owned entities is an administrative matter and the government would be in the best position to dispose of the matter,” a senior DoT official said.
A query to DoT did not elicit any response.
The allotment of 4G spectrum — a key component of the revival package for the two state-run telecom carriers — is crucial for the loss-making telecom firms to compete with private sector rivals such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
The telecom department had last month sought Trai’s views on whether spectrum — a natural resource — could be allocated to the two ailing firms ‘administratively’, or without the process of going through an auction. In 2012, the apex court, while quashing 122 telecom licences, said that all natural resources should be allocated only through auctions.
The government has also sought approval from the Election Commission of India, in view of the ongoing general elections, to put the radio waves allocation matter before the Cabinet, following pressure from the two service providers’ nearly 2 lakh employees.
The non-availability of 4G airwaves to public sector companies, at a time when the private sector is closer to embracing the next-generation 5G technology, is bleeding the companies further as subscribers desert the state-run carriers for rivals, putting their revival at risk.
The two telecom firms - BSNL operates across 20 telecom circles and MTNL serves Delhi and Mumbai - are demanding that the government approve their revival proposals, which include a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), asset monetization and allocation of 4G spectrum.
Recently, the All India Trade Union Congress alleged that a deliberate attempt was being made to shut down BSNL.