A day after nearly half the airwaves put on the auction block
among telecom players went unsold, the government sought to
project a brave face, with Communications Minister Kapil Sibal
Thursday saying there will be another round of bidding.
"Of course, there will be an auction. There is no doubt about
that. What procedure we follow for that auction is something we
will decide in another few weeks," Sibal told reporters here.
He said the government did exactly what the courts wanted it to do
-- that is sell the airwaves, or radio frequency spectrum, that
was vacated after 122 licences and accompanying spectrum issued in
2008 were cancelled by virtue of a Supreme Court order.
"We, in fact, even brought the price down because we wanted to
sell -- we wanted companies to buy. If we had fixed at Rs.18,000
crore ($3.33 billion) in terms of what the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended, even this would not
have been fetched."
Sibal was referring to Rs.9,400 crore ($1.74 billion) which the
winning bids will fetch the government, as opposed to expectations
of as much as Rs.40,000 crore ($7.4 billion) or more on the basis
of presumptive loss which India's official auditor had once
The government had fixed the reserve price for the spectrum at
Rs.14,000 crore ($2.59 billion).
The communications minister also took a dig at the estimates of
the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which at one
point had embarrassed the government no end, and said all this has
resulted in no benefits to the consumer.
"We are not here to score points. Our point always was that market
dynamics should be allowed to play out. The moment you start
dealing with market directly or indirectly it will be bad. The
government's wisdom should only intervene when required," he said.
"The purpose of the government is to ensure development and to
ensure prosperity. We are not here to feel vindicated," he said.
"The consumer has not benefited at all because the nature and the
kind of investments that ought to have gone into the sector have
stopped and the sector has been in debt," he added.