New Delhi, Nov 18: On the heels of government auditor CAG's castigating report on 2G air wave allocaton, telecom regulator Trai today asked government to cancel nearly 70 licences of five new players including Etisalat, Videocon and Uninor.
Shortly after Trai made its recommendation on the network roll-out failure by these companies that were given licences and spectrum in 2008, new Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal is believed to have summoned his top officials for a discussion.
There were also indications that the Telecom Ministry could witness a shake-up and the axe could fall on some key officials who worked under former Telecom Minister A Raja, who resigned earlier this week following his indictment by government auditor CAG over 2G spectrum allocation.
The regulator recommended that licences be cancelled in at least 15 circles given to Etisalat, a company earlier known as Swan that CAG had dubbed as a front company of Anil Ambani group, and 10 circles given to Sistema-Shyam.
Besides, it recommended that Unitech group's Uninor be deprived of licences in 8 circles, Videocon in 10 circles and Loop in 19 circles.
Trai, which had recommended penalty for non-compliance with the roll-out obligations, said that this amount could run into several thousands of crores. "So, we had suggested that these licences should be cancelled. This would vacate enormous amount of spectrum (radio waves) and this can be given to companies that are serious about meeting the schedule," the regulator said.
Meanwhile, Sistema-Shyam and Uninor said that they were in compliance with the network roll-out obligations and added that they had not got any notice from either the government or the regulator.
As per the conditions of licence, the licencees are required to roll-out the services in 90 per cent service area in metros and 10 per cent district headquarters in other service areas within 12 months of the date of award of licences.
Trai's action comes amid the Comptroller and Auditor General slamming the Telecom Ministry for irregularity and impropriety in giving licences to new players in 2008, causing a loss of a whopping Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.
The action also coincides with the Supreme Court hearing into the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.
Telecom Secretary R Chandrasekhar and other senior officials, particularly those dealing with policy and licensing, were believed to have attended the meeting called by Sibal in the aftermath of the Trai recommendations.
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal is today understood to have convened a meeting of top officials within hours of regulator Trai recommending cancellation of over five dozen licences over roll-out obligations.
Telecom Secretary R Chandrasekhar and other senior officials, particularly those dealing with policy and licensing, were also believed to be in the meeting to discuss the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
Sibal was given additional charge of Communications and IT Ministry earlier this week after A Raja stepped down owing to pressure following his indictment by government auditor CAG in the 2G spectrum allocation of 2008.
CAG had questioned the propriety, procedures and the manner of decision making by the then Telecom Minister Raja and his ministry officials and said favouritism in allocation of spectrum and licences had caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
Sources also indicated that Sibal could execute a major shake-up in the ministry in the aftermath of the CAG report, as also the recommendations of Trai.
Some officials are also believed to be on the watch and their decisions are being examined.
Earlier today, Trai asked the Telecom Ministry to cancel a total of 62 licences awarded to five companies, including Etisalat (formerly Swan), Uninor and Videocon, over non-compliance with roll-out obligations or improper roll-out of network. PTI