Kapil Sibal's attempt at sorting rift between telcos on airwaves fails

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Economic Times | March 9, 2011

NEW DELHI: An attempt by telecom minister Kapil Sibal to help the country’s warring mobile service providers find some common ground failed with companies sticking to their positions in a slew of issues concerning the allocation of airwaves.

Top executives of all 14 telecom companies refused to yield ground on the proposed policy changes, dousing hopes that the industry will sort out differences internally, allowing the government to arrive at a policy for allocating the scarce spectrum. The meeting was part of Sibal’s efforts to achieve his 100-day targets in consultation with the industry. “I have urged the stakeholders to get together and iron out the differences among themselves because no industry can be robust if it is fractious,” the minister told reporters on Tuesday.

The meeting discussed a series of proposals on 2G spectrum such as pricing, capping the amount of airwaves a telecom firm can hold, methodology for awarding additional spectrum, reworking the usage fee for this resource and a system for awarding radio frequencies to companies. Sharing of spectrum and re-farming of this resource was another prominent item on the 15-point agenda.

After taking over telecom portfolio in November, Sibal had said he would introduce reforms, including a new telecom policy, in consultation with service providers. The proposed policy was to replace the existing one, which has been in place for over a decade.

A top executive who attended the meeting said the industry was sharply divided on policy changes related to spectrum allocation. India’s telecom sector has been mired in controversy since 2008 over the pricing of ‘excess’ 2G spectrum, used for basic mobile services.
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