The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is standing its ground on cancellation of 74 mobile service licences for failure to roll out services, and has informed the government that about 210 MHz of 2G spectrum could be freed if the licences are cancelled.
"The authority has obtained legal opinion from two eminent jurists (former judges of Supreme Court), which support this view," TRAI secretary R K Arnold said in a communication to the department of telecommunications.
The regulator's stance will further put pressure on the government to act on the 74 licences, which if auctioned would bring in further revenues for the exchequer.
"The authority would like to invite the attention of DoT...to its recommendations dated February 8, 2011, relating to auction of surplus spectrum, which would now be available in certain areas consequent upon cancellation of licences as recommended," the communication said.
TRAI has said post cancellation, 2.5-15.5 units of spectrum would be freed up in each of the 22 telecom circles. The regulator's projections are important as India has almost exhausted its 2G airwaves, the frequencies on which most voice services are currently offered. According to DoT, very little 2G spectrum is available in 10 circles.
For instance, Delhi has 3.6 units of airwaves left while Mumbai has 2.2 MHz. New entrants such as Tata Teleservices and Uninor (majority owned by Norway's Telenor), which are yet to receive even start-up spectrum in several circles including Delhi, may have to keep waiting unless the government takes back 2G airwaves from some companies.