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|January 11, 1999||
GoT report will be final by February 19The government's group on telecom has said it would be ready with a new national telecom policy by February 19.
The group has decided to consult the attorney general of India on the "legal and moral aspects" of a bailout financial package for cellular and basic telecom operators. The AG's inputs are expected "in a couple of days".
Communications minister Jagmohan was co-opted into the group on December 24 last year.
GoT spokesperson N K Singh, who is also secretary to the prime minister, says the group had decided on a new timeframe for the preparation of the telecom policy.
He said the six-member sub-group on telecom would submit the draft policy on January 23 to the GoT, which in turn would submit it to the prime minister on February 19.
At a two-hour meeting last week, the GoT also decided to make public the recommendations of a frequency spectrum allocation committee which suggested changes in the national frequency allocation plan, 1981.
The report of the committee will be available at the site of the National Informatics Centre (http://www.nic.in/pmcouncil), the centre's director general, N Seshagiri said.
The proposed changes will free up to 45 MHz frequency bandwidth, enabling the entry of two more cellular operators and one basic telecom operator.
Currently, there are two private cellular operators and two basic telecom operators (the department of telecommunications and a private company) in each telecom circle (mostly analogous to a state).
Lieutenant General Prakash Gokarn, who heads the spectrum committee, says; "In addition to the 110 MHz (bandwidth) already being used, we have identified 45 MHz. This will involve some recalibration of equipment (of current users). The (Indian) Air Force will have to be compensated for about Rs 345 crore (Rs 3.45 billion) that has been committed to be met through the budget."
Of the 45 MHz capacity, some 6.5 MHz would be made available in the 900 MHz band and another 40 MHz (in parts of 10 MHz each) in the 1,800 MHz band.
Although this is equivalent to 53 MHz, it includes buffer capacity between usable spectrum slots to avoid interference between users.
Dwelling on the "path ahead for TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India)", N K Singh said that the meeting of the GoT discussed inputs from the regulator. TRAI is learnt to have advocated a "stronger and clearly defined" role for itself.
Explaining the induction of Mahajan and Sinha into the GoT, a member said, "The I&B minister has been brought in, keeping in mind the convergence of (telecom and broadcasting) technologies." Finance Minister Sinha has been included to examine the revenue implications of the new policy being prepared by the group.
Industry sources interpreted the induction of Sinha into the GoT as a sign of differences within the government on the details and scope of the new policy and the bailout package for private operators.
The industry and PMO are in favour of delicensing the telecom industry and replacing the current licence fee structure with a revenue-sharing mechanism.
DoT is opposed to delicensing the industry because it feels the Indian telecom market is not yet ready for free competition and business viability of the operators may be affected if such a drastic measure is adopted.
The finance ministry, on the other hand, does not want to completely do away with the current licence fee structure for fear of a drop in revenues.
Besides Jaswant Singh, Jagmohan, Yashwant Singh, Pramod Mahajan, N K Singh and Seshagiri, other members of the GoT are...
- Compiled from the Indian media
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