This was to be expected. The spectrum issues played out in the past fortnight in full public glare. I was following up the story in the mainstream press and this makes for a fascinating read; specially the way it brings the “saas bahu” serials to shame. It gave enough grist to the “telecom” specialists to throw their hats in the rings and make lofty pronouncements.
A quick low down of the ensuing events. According to the norms, the spectrum would be issued to the companies who garner the maximum share of the subscribers. This means that apart from the bloated number of subscribers, the whole mobile user base is a BIG suspect. The specturm wars broke out in the public because Raja wanted to ration the scarce resource and act God. There are often shispers of BIG money floating around but then that isn’t the focus of this write up here. At first, the government decided to relax the norms for spectrum allocation. In the meantime, it allocated 10 Mhz of “free” spectrum to the two upgly sisters, BSNL/MTNL. This was challanged by COAI, the motley coalition of the private telecom operators in TDSAT, which is tribunal body to decide the disputes. To add to the confusion in the midst was the huge number of applications that waited to get their turn for spectrum allocation. DoT decided to issue letters of intent to the new players.
In the meantime, the media jumped in the fray and raised the issue of 3G licences and there were various interpretations of the original licencing norms. Government of India thrives in controversy and no wonder that it was very happy to roll in the mud. The motley association was split right through the middle and they could not get their act quite right. After a couple of days, COAI made quiet noises about “settling” the 3G row.
Now comes the icing on the cake. Reliance got an entry in the GSM club by paying a paltry sum of 1600+crores and got their CDMA licence converted to some kind of a “universal access” crap. Whatever that means. Reliance’s entry in the cosy club and hence the scarce spectrum being gifted on the platter was too much for the association to digest. Anil Ambani and the rest exchanged verbal duels clothed in their gobbledegook. In other words, both the parties were fingering each other. When the war of words went out of hand, the DoT wanted to play Godfather and summoned the chiefs of all the telecom companies to “thrash out a solution”.
Raja realised that the game was clearly up and set up a shadow boxing competition. In effect, to announce as to who is the boss. Since there was no consensus on the telecom chief’s meet, he decided to get the PMO involved and had a smiling manmoron to back up his decision.
Thus ended the saga of the “spectrum wars”; the last word isn’t written as yet. I would wait for further news to unfold in the near future. Nevertheless, the mess persists and the ultimate looser is the public exchequer. Without going in detail about the merits of the case, I believe that this telecom mess would tangle itself like a hydra headed monster. No respite!
As usual, the watchdogs were quiet and it was only Business Standard who spoke out at length about the mess around here.