New Delhi, Oct. 18: An empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on telecom today deferred a decision on operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone vacating spectrum in the more efficient 900 megahertz (MHz) band and buying less efficient airwaves when their permits come up for renewal in November 2014.
"The matter (spectrum refarming) was deferred as there was not enough time," telecom minister Kapil Sibal said.
The EGoM was to take a view on the Telecom Commission's recommendations on spectrum refarming.
Telecom secretary R. Chandrashekhar said existing operators would be allowed to bid in the auction of the 900MHz band, which is likely to take place in the first half of 2013. If they are successful, they can retain the spectrum. Otherwise, the incumbents will be given 18 months to shift to the 1800MHz band.
GSM players is opposed to this proposal as it will cost them over Rs 1,00,000 crore in buying spectrum and equipment.
"We intend to take a decision on the refarming issue prior to the start of auction (of spectrum vacated from cancellation of 2G licences by the Supreme Court)," Sibal said. "Hopefully a week before the start of the auction (November 12)."
"A lot of time was taken by other issues and there wasn't enough time (left) to take a decision immediately on that," Sibal said.
The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Centre on a plea by an association of GSM operators seeking inclusion of airwaves allocated to two Tata Group companies in the auction on November 12.