Trai alert after Rajas 2G largesse went unheeded

Written by Rishi Raj | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 18 2011, 09:25am hrs
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may have said that he did not press former telecom minister A Raja for auctioning spectrum because the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the Telecom Commission and the finance ministry had all agreed to the same.

However, according to documents accessed by FE, Trai wrote to the then DoT secretary Siddharth Behura on January 14, 2008, asking DoT for the third time to consult it on the licensing process before awarding new licences, because it felt that its recommendations were not being implemented in letter and spirit. Behura never replied to the letter, which came from Trai four days after Rajas largesse.

As reported earlier by FE, the matter relating to the process of award of licences was never referred to the full Telecom Commission. In fact, Manju Madhavan, the then member-finance in the Commission, had objected to Rajas move and was humiliated by him when he questioned her integrity and knowledge about UAS licence. Madhavan then sought voluntary retirement. The finance ministry did not accede to Rajas line, but did not pursue the matter after a point when it saw that its counsel was going unheeded.

The letter written by the then Trai chairman Nirpendra Misra to Behura on January 14, 2008 draws attention to the fact that the government could not go ahead and grant new licences unless it has satisfied itself that it has enough spectrum to fulfill the needs of existing operators.

This was decided way back in 2003. Misra wrote the letter after coming to know of the grant of licences through a DoT press release. Earlier, in 2007 also, Trai had written two letters to DoT in this regard. The Authority wants to reiterate that its recommendation on the entry of new service providers has always been linked to the availability of spectrum. This was conveyed to DoT vide letter no 101-5/2003-MN dated February 25, 2003 and subsequently reiterated in its recommendations on UASL of October 27, 2003, wherein Trai had opined that induction of additional mobile service providers in various service areas can be considered if there is adequate availability of spectrum for the existing service providers as well as for the new players, if permitted. As there was no subsequent reference to the Authority on the issue, therefore it is presumed that the government had agreed with the above recommendation, Misra wrote to Behura. This meant that it was decided in 2003 itself that any new licences could be given only after DoT makes an assessment of spectrum and ensures that theres enough to fulfill the need for growth of the existing operators. No such exercise was undertaken. Misra further wrote: I also wish to draw your kind attention to our letter dated October 15, 2007 regarding the legal provisions of processing the recommendations of Trai. This letter was followed by another letter dated october 19, 2007 wherein it was clarified that it would be unfair and misleading if any decision and consequent action is initiated without identifying and implementing the linkages elsewhere in the recommendation. It was reiterated that the Authority should be formally consulted if there is any deviation from the totality of the recommendation.