Centre sought extension to allow new players to buy back spectrum via auction
New 2G players whose licences were set to be cancelled on February 4 have got another breather with the Supreme Court scheduling the next hearing on March 11. This gives new players such as Sistema Shyam and Telenor another month to continue services in areas where they had started after getting licences in 2008. The next round of spectrum auction also starts on March 11.
The Supreme Court had earlier permitted the existing 2G spectrum licensees to operate their services beyond January 18 till the next hearing on February 4.
The Centre had sought extension of the time limit for the licensees whose permits stood quashed by the February 2, 2012 judgment.
‘Spell out’ price
A Bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and K. S. Radhakrishnan, while allowing the extension in January, asked the Centre to spell out the price to be charged for continuing with their service after cancellation of the licences last year.
Last February, the court had cancelled all licences issued on or after January 10, 2008, but allowed these operators to continue for four months till the subsequent auction.
The court then extended the time limit for the operators after the Department of Telecom promised to hold the auction in November.
The auctions were held but most of the new players stayed away due to the high base price. The DoT is, therefore, conducting another round of auction in March with lower base price.
The Bench had earlier asked the Centre to furnish details of the successful bidders in the first round held in November last and the reserve price proposed for the auction to be held in March.
It had also sought details of the number of operators whose licences were cancelled, those who participated in the fresh auction and how many of them continued with their operations.
In its application, the Centre said it intended commencing the auction in the 1800, 900 and 800 MHz bands on March 11 and completing it soon thereafter.
“The existing operators whose licences stand quashed… may not evince interest in such an auction if they are not allowed to offer their services pending the auction and this may impact the discovery of an optimal price for spectrum,” DoT had said.
May impose a condition
In the event that the existing operators were permitted to offer their services till the commencement of operations by the successful bidders in the proposed auction, “this court may impose a condition that such operators will be liable to pay for the spectrum at the proposed auction or the reserve price, whichever is higher, with effect from December 19, 2012,” the Centre said.