Make the right call
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Smooth the way for telecom auctions instead of introducing new issues like refarming
The essence of an auction-based allocation of scarce natural resources is the discovery of a fair price for all. Any concomitant rise in the revenue of the state is an added benefit. The concern the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has expressed on telecom spectrum allocation in a note to the EGoM must be seen in this context.
As Ahluwalia has pointed out, the entire exercise of the upcoming auction in November stems from the Supreme Court judgment of February this year, when the court overruled the allocations made by former telecom minister A. Raja, freeing up the airwaves for fresh allocation. But the move has already been complicated, first by the Trai and then by the EGoM, with the insistence on a high reserve price for the auction. This scenario has been further complicated by the proposed decision to refarm spectrum. The government is considering asking companies that occupy the 900 Mhz spectrum to vacate it in favour of the less efficient 1,800, the rationale being that the price that companies like Bharti, Vodafone and Idea paid for the 900 band earlier is far less than that discovered in the 3G auctions, hence it must be reset.
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