India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is set to issue 85 notices to a number of companies that received telecoms licences in 2008 despite not meeting the eligibility criteria, and will ask them why their concessions should not be revoked, according to the Wall Street Journal. New communications minister Kapil Sibal, who took over following the resignation of Andimuthu Raja, has also reportedly said that the regulator will contact companies that failed to meet the deadline for rolling out services, with operators likely to face fines should the DoT find that regulations had been violated. In addition, Mr Sibal said that should such companies then fail to inaugurate services within a year their licences could be cancelled. It is understood that licence holders are to be given 60 days to respond to the DoT’s notices.
The decision by the government to crack down on licensees comes after allegations of favouritism, and follow a report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG); after an 18-month probe into the sale of the country’s 2G spectrum in 2008 the CAG claimed that the country lost out on revenue of as much as INR1.77 trillion (USD39.6 billion) due to the pricing of concessions. Further, as previously reported by CommsUpdate, on 19 November the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) called for a total of 62 wireless licences belonging to five operators to be cancelled, with a senior official at the TRAI noting: ‘We have reviewed about 127 licences and have recommended that some licences may be cancelled on the ground that either they have not rolled out (mobile phone) services or for improper rollout of services, so that the spectrum can be utilised.’