The government has fast-tracked reforms in the telecom sector and plans to clear the proposal allowing spectrum trading and sharing ahead of the year-end deadline as it wants to lift the business sentiment for the forthcoming airwave auction.
While telcos are allowed to share passive infrastructure like mobile towers, which has helped them in reducing operational cost, they are not allowed to share active infrastructure like spectrum. If the 'spectrum sharing and trading' proposal is cleared, it is expected to boost the business sentiment and fetch higher price at the spectrum auction, scheduled for February 2015.
Top government officials said that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sees negative sentiment building up over the delay in releasing spectrum to telcos who won it in the February 2014 auction and this could affect the next round of bidding. Chief executives of telcos have already forwarded their request to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for an immediate hearing concerning the non-availability of spectrum they won this year.
Government sources said that DoT swung into action after the PMO directed it to look into the delay concerning spectrum non-availability. "We have been informally told to address this issue. But this has to be worked out at the highest level as the major chunk of the spectrum which has to be given to private telecom companies is with the defence forces," a top DoT official said.
"We cannot impose decisions on the defence ministry. All we can do now is to expedite the mechanism for auction and guidelines for spectrum trading and sharing. We hope to create a positive environment for telcos. This will also help us in achieving our budgetary target concerning spectrum auction," the official added.
The government has already earmarked a budget target of Rs 45,000 crore against spectrum auction and licence fees. While Rs 18,000 crore will come via licence fees and spectrum charges, the government expects Rs 27,000 crore from the next auction."
According to a memorandum of understanding between the defence ministry and DoT, the former was to free 65MHz of spectrum in the 1,800 and 2,100 MHz bands for commercial use. In return, DoT was meant to complete an optical fibre network that is already two years behind schedule.