The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has pointed out it would not cede its right to spectrum management in the country to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) or any other entity.
It has made its stand on the issue clear in its presentation to the empowered group of ministers (eGOM) on 3G-spectrum auction on 31 July. The committee is headed by finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee.
The DoT's clarification on its position comes in response to TRAI's 2007 recommendation suggesting that the department had over spectrum management - auctioning and allocations to a speciailised body created for the purpose with members drawn from other ministries as well as the industry. The TRAI had found that the present command structure for spectrum management was not proper and the function needed to be de-linked fron DoT and made more transparent.
The TRAI has argued that its recommendation was in line with the global practice whereas DoT in its presentation has said that TRAI suggestions are not mandatory but only recommendatory in nature. Analysts point out that with DoT's clarification it becomes apparent that spectrum management would continue to be handled by the wireless planning and coordination (WPC) wing of the DoT.
DoT and TRAI have long been at loggerheads on spectrum management with the regulatory alluding to lack of transparency in the entire process while the DoT maintaining that it was strengthening the WPC wing. The mobile operators, meanwhile have held that they need to be made a party to the management of the key resource which is a vital raw material for them.
Meanwhile TRAI has countered DoT saying that the government can reject its suggestion, the same should be considered with seriousness and sufficient reasons need to be adduced to rejection of its suggestions.
TRAI officials point out that it had suggested a specialised body in a bid to avoid a turf battle. TRAI has powers on matters of tariff fixation whilc DoT has jurisdiction on
policy matters under the current arrangement. However, policy decisions have to be referred to Trai as Dot is bound to seek Trai's recommendations.
Meanwhile, on 3G spectrum auctioning, the DoT has suggested three alternative approaches:
- Alternative 1 calls for the auction of four blocks of 2x5 MHz in 2.1 GHz band with one block of 2.5 MHz being already allotted to BSNL and MTNL in each circle under their respective areas of operations. This aligns with Trai's recommendations of September 2006 and the decision of the Full Telecom Commission dated 19 December 2008.
- Alternative 2 calls for auction of all available spectrum of blocks 2x5 MHz as per Trai recommendations dated 9 December 2008 and the opinion of Solicitor General of India.
- Alternative 3 calls for other alternatives like auction of more than four blocks but not all available spectrum; auction of all spectrum but only to four operators