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Allegations around allocation of microwave spectrum baseless, says Sinha

The minister asserted that so far the backhaul spectrum has not been auctioned, but allocated administratively

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Manoj Sinha, Telecom Minister
Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha | File photo

Under attack for giving away valuable telecom spectrum without auction, the government Wednesday strongly defended administrative allocation of microwave spectrum, saying the bidding rules do not apply to backhaul airwaves, which are critical for maintaining connectivity.

With calling allocation of a scam, cited the 2012 ruling, which had cancelled allocations done on the first-come-first-serve basis, to say that was not covered under the judgment.

The (CAG) in its report tabled in Parliament last week said microwave access (MWA) spectrum was allocated to a telecom operator in 2015 on first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis in contravention to the recommendations of a DoT-constituted committee, while 101 applications for were pending with the government.

"I want to say that the SC order of 2012 was about access spectrum and not It is not one service provider but all those who were genuine, were given on an administrative basis, before and after the order," Sinha told reporters here.

The had, earlier this week, demanded a probe into the matter following findings of the (CAG) that a set of spectrum was allocated in 2015 on first-come-first-served basis in contravention to recommendations of a committee. The had alleged that the CAG had found that various instances of spectrum mismanagement by the Department of Telecom (DoT) had caused a loss of around Rs 560 crore to the public exchequer.

"The allegations are baseless and without any evidence," Sinha said.

The minister asserted that so far the has not been auctioned, but allocated administratively, and added that telecom regulator too had recommended the same.

To a specific question on whether there is a decision to auction such spectrum, the minister said, "So far there is no decision...we are neither considering it nor studying". He said adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that whenever the government takes a decision, those allotted such spectrum will have to pay up, retrospectively.

Sinha also defended the decision on deferred spectrum liability, saying extending the period of making payments to 16 years would bring an additional Rs 74,446 crore to government coffers.

"When the inter-ministerial group gave recommendation (on the matter), it gave consideration to net present value and the same was the case with the and Telecom Commission, so the entire matter was well thought out, to see how urgent relief can be given to the sector without causing loss to exchequer," he said.

First Published: Wed, January 16 2019. 18:46 IST