TRAI dodges BSNL/MTNL spectrum question

15 Apr 2019

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reportedly avoided providing a recommendation on the allocation of 4G spectrum to state-owned providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BNSL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL). The Economic Times cites an unnamed official at the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as saying that the regulator had told the ministry that ‘the allocation of the spectrum to public-owned entities is an administrative matter and the government would be in the best position to dispose of the matter’.

The DoT had sought the TRAI’s view on plans to issue 4G spectrum to the duo via administrative allocation, as a Supreme Court decision from 2012 had ruled that the allocation of spectrum rights must be completed via auction to ensure that the process is non-discriminatory. The government was uncertain, however, whether the rule would also be applied to government-owned entities. The two cellcos have been lobbying for 4G spectrum for several years as part of a recovery programme to return them to profitability and allow them to compete more effectively with their privately-owned competitors.