A ministerial panel led by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is scheduled to meet on Monday to plan a revised schedule for spectrum auction as the government is unlikely to finish the process by August 31 as mandated by the Supreme Court.

“The panel will discuss a revised schedule for spectrum auction,” sources in Department of Telecom (DoT) said.

It is, however, still not clear when the government will approach the Supreme Court seeking an extension of August 31 deadline.

“We will decide on all further steps after finalisation of an auctioneer and revised auction schedule,” sources added.

Three firms have submitted bids for selection as auctioneer for the upcoming spectrum sale.

These include Times Internet, NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivative Exchange) and Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (KEONICS).

The Cabinet had approved a base price of Rs 14,000 for 5Mhz of airwaves while for spectrum usage charges, present slab rate system in the range of 3-8 per cent will continue.

The price approved was 22 per cent lower than Rs 18,000 crore minimum rate suggested by sector regulator TRAI.

It was, however, 7 times higher than the price new companies had paid in 2008 to get spectrum from the then Telecom Minister A. Raja.

The apex court in February had cancelled 122 telecom licences belonging to eight service providers including all permits of Uninor, Loop Telecom, Etisalat DB, Videocon, STel, 21 licences of Sistema Shyam, 9 of Idea Cellular and 3 licences of Tata Teleservices.

The auction is crucial for companies such as Uninor and Sistema Shyam Teleservices, which have time till September 7 to offer their services and after which will be forced to close down their operations in case they fail to get a licence.

(This article was published on August 5, 2012)
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