The Cabinet has cleared the way for as many as 839 new FM radio channels to go on air in nearly 300 cities later this year.

These channels are to be awarded in the third phase of expansion of FM Radio, the guidelines for which were approved at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The third round of expansion has been delayed for nearly two years, as the telecom scam cast a cloud over the process of allocation of natural resources such as radio spectrum.

The Cabinet accepted the recommendations of an Empowered Group of Ministries on changes to be followed in the auction process. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry expects to rake in around Rs 1,532 crore from the auction of new radio channels. The Ministry expects to complete the auctions this financial year.

It has also been decided to charge a fee from existing operators migrating from Phase II to Phase III. The migration fee will be decided after consultation with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The Cabinet had given its nod to conduct the auction of 839 channels in 294 cities in March last year, which will extend FM radio coverage to all cities with over 1 lakh population.

Subsequently, TRAI recommended auctioning of additional frequency to be opened up by reducing the inter-channel spacing. The Cabinet has now said that additional channels that will be available by reducing the inter-channel spacing to 400 kHz could be considered after feasibility studies are completed.

(This article was published on May 1, 2013)
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