16 million MTS users get respite

Manoj Gairola

New Delhi, Jan. 6 -- More than 16 million subscribers of Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL) - which operates CDMA services under the MTS brand - are in for some good news. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has decided to approach the Supreme Court for an extension of the January 18 deadline for cancellation of its licences.

The Supreme Court had in February 2, 2012 cancelled all licences issued by former communications and IT minister A Raja following allegations of corruption in the allocation of spectrum.

The government was asked to auction spectrum afresh by May 2.

The deadline was later extended and operators were allowed to offer services till January 18.

SSTL, however, did not participate in the auctions held in November last year on grounds that its licences should not have been cancelled in the first place as it did not do anything wrong. It also said that the reserve price for auction was very high.

"The government is working out a strategy to make bidding in the 800-MHz band, for which there were no takers last year, attractive for operators," said a DoT official. "That is the reason we may seek extension of deadline for the 800-MHz band that is used by CDMA operators."

The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on telecom headed by finance minister P Chidambaram will meet on Monday to finalise modalities of auction in the 800-MHz band.

The EGoM has two options before it. It can reduce the reserve price of spectrum in the 800-MHz band or it may refer the issue of reserve price to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.