The clarification from DoT came to light in the findings of a comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report which said there was inequitable allotment of MWA spectrum to operators.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allocated microwave access (MWA) or backhaul spectrum to two operators — Reliance Jio and Sistema Shyam Teleservices — in 2015 as they agreed to follow the provisional guidelines regarding the allotment of such airwaves. Other telcos, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular had also applied to get additional backhaul spectrum but as they refused to follow the guidelines, DoT did not allot spectrum to them.
The clarification from DoT came to light in the findings of a comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report which said there was inequitable allotment of MWA spectrum to operators. As per the CAG, allotment of MWA spectrum was withheld by DoT since June 2010 and allotment against only one application was made in December 2015. The auditor further said that there were 101 applications pending till November 2016 for allotment of the MWA spectrum.
However, sources in DoT said many of the applications pertain to operators whose licences were quashed by the Supreme Court in 2012 and they were not eligible to get it. Other applications were from incumbent operators, who already had MWA spectrum and they wanted more. But as these operators refused to agree to the provisional guidelines, allocation was not done, the source in DoT stated.
DoT had issued guidelines in October 2015 for allotment of MWA spectrum for interim period provisionally pending the final decision by government. The department has still not taken a final decision on method of allocation of MWA spectrum.
The CAG in its report said that the DoT constituted a committee in December 2012 to look into the allotment of spectrum in various categories of spectrum users and proposed that the MWA spectrum allotment to all the operators should be done through market-related process — auction.
“However, in contravention of the committee’s recommendations, allocation of MW access spectrum has been done on FCFS (first-come-first-serve) basis till date as was being done for 2G licence and access spectrum till 2009,” the report said.
The Supreme Court in 2012 had struck down FCFS policy in 2G spectrum allocation case of 2008-09 while cancelling 122 telecom permits that were granted spectrum through the process.
The DoT on its part said telecom regulatory authority of India (Trai), in August 2014, had recommended that MWA spectrum should be allocated administratively and not through the auction mode.