EGoM on telecom to meet within a week: Sibal

The Empowered Group of Ministers on telecom, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, will meet within a week in the backdrop of lukewarm response to recently-concluded 2G spectrum auction.

"We will have meeting of EGoM within a week," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said in an interview to CNBC-TV18. The auction of spectrum that started on November 12 attracted muted response from the market and fetched the government only Rs 9,407 crore out of Rs 28,000 crore which was minimum value of the airwaves put for auction.

The auction of CDMA spectrum had failed earlier after bidders pulled out. On the Supreme Court order asking for an explanation from the Telecom Ministry on recent spectrum auction, he said: "If the court asks (us) to provide explanation, we will provide that explanation."

"The CAG , I'm sure, had views in mind when he put out those figures. He must be convinced of that figure. We believe that by taking that figure of presumptive loss, the media sensationalised the whole thing," Sibal said. "It resulted ultimately through a judgement of a court of cancellation of licences which in turn...destroyed sentiment of the market which in turn lead to the situation that we are in today," he added.

Sibal said that the government had no other choice but to abide by the Supreme Court order to auction spectrum. "The Supreme Court has told us to auction. We had no choice on the matter. Now if the Supreme Court thinks some other policy prescription is necessary, let the Supreme Court tell us. The government has no choice. It was final judgement of the Supreme Court," he said.

The Minister added that 3G auction was appreciated by everybody as it fetched high revenue for government but consumer did not gain anything from the auction. " 3G auction...we got revenue and consumers got nothing. There was no roll out. I don't think that's the end purpose of any policy prescription. Ultimately, the consumers must benefit. The consumer must get an efficient service at reasonable prices," he said.

The telecom minister refuted allegations levelled by Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekhar that there were no effort to make spectrum auction was successful.
The government had reached out to foreign players for investing in the sector, he said.

"We didn't do roadshows in 2001, 2008, 2010. We talked to all the international players. We talked to Australians. We talked to AT&T, we talked to DOCOMO," Sibal said.
The Minister said CDMA is "a dying technology" and said that "nobody is interested in CDMA".

Sibal said going forward, the government has option to look at price of spectrum for which there has been no bid and CDMA spectrum. "In circles where spectrum had already been sold (based) at Rs 14,000 crore (reserve price) we can't change the price because you can't have one part of the circle at Rs 14 (thousand crore) and other part of the circle at another price," he said.

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