Decision on spectrum refarming before auctions: Sibal

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New Delhi – Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday said the government will take a final decision on reallocation of spectrum before the auction of airwaves begins.

“Absolutely, before the auction starts,” Mr. Sibal said on the sidelines of an Airtel event, when asked if the decision on spectrum refarming will be taken before the auction, which are to begin from November 12.

The Supreme Court, which had in February cancelled 122 licences in the 2G spectrum allocation case, has directed the government to complete the auction process by January 11, 2013.

The Telecom Commission, an inter-ministerial body at the Department of Telecom, has decided that existing mobile operators will have to fully vacate airwaves in the 900 MHz band at the time of licence renewal in 2014 — a move that GSM players say would cost them over Rs 66,000 crore in replacing infrastructure.

Airtel Chairman and Managing Director Sunil Bharti Mittal said the company has to work under the framework of the government and has complete faith in it.

On the amount of 900 MHz spectrum that existing operators should be allowed to retain, Mr Mittal said, “I want to keep it all”, but added that the government has to keep a balance.

The Final decision on refarming has to be taken by the Empowered Group of Ministers on spectrum, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The EGoM is scheduled for Thursday.

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