New Delhi, July 17: The empowered group of ministers on telecom is likely to take up tomorrow the issue of spectrum liberalisation ' which has driven a wedge between the government and the industry.
Spectrum liberalisation gives operators the freedom to offer 2G, 3G or 4G service in any frequency band and not just one type of service.
While the department of telecom (DoT) wants incumbent operators to migrate to a liberalised spectrum regime by paying market-determined prices, the operators argue that current licensing norms already allow them the flexibility to offer any mobile service using any spectrum and are, therefore, averse to paying extra fees.
Telecom firms also contend that liberalisation as postulated by the DoT is the same as "technology neutrality", which has been in place since the National Telecom Policy (NTP), 1999. They only need to buy spectrum for various kinds of services to be able to offer the rights they acquired in NTP-99.
"There is no difference between the liberalisation agenda that the DoT has announced and what is already permitted under policy and licence, including NTP-99. Liberalised use/technology neutrality is enshrined in our licences and there is simply no justification for us to pay an auction-discovered price for the permission to do what we are already entitled to," said T.V. Ramachandran, resident director (regulatory affairs) of Vodafone India.
According to the DoT, airwaves held by existing players cannot be used to deploy any technology of their choice but spectrum sold in the upcoming auctions would offer this flexibility. For instance, the 1800MHz band can only be used for 2G voice services, while the 2.1GHz band is for high-speed 3G data services.