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Wait for next gen telecom services gets longer
NEW DELHI: The wait for the auction of radio waves to start third generation (3G) telecom services in India has got longer. A key ministry panel
that will take a decision on crucial issues like pricing is scheduled to meet only at the end of the month.

The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) constituted to take a decision on the issue will meet July 31, a senior government official said on Thursday.

"The EGoM will meet on July 31. Reserve price will be set up by the GoM," said Department of Telecom (DoT) Secretary Sidhharth Behura on the sidelines of the Assocham Telecom Summit here.

The auction process has been delayed several times since January when it was first scheduled to happen.

Once the EGoM takes the decision, fresh time line for auctions will be announced.

The government constituted the EGoM July 13 to look into matters relating to pricing of spectrum and number of operators to be allowed in each telecom circle.

The finance ministry has proposed a base price of Rs 4,040 crore for 3G spectrum whereas the DoT suggested Rs 3,540 crore. While presenting the union budget, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Rs 35,000 crore was expected to be raised from the auction.

Other members of the EGoM are Communications Minister A Raja, besides cabinet ministers P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar, A K Antony, Veerappa Moily, Ambika Soni, Prithviraj Chavan and also the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Regarding the rollout of mobile number portability (MNP), Behura said it was on schedule.

"It will come by end of this year," he said.

But when asked about the delay, he said: "MNP is a new process, it is prevalent only in three or four countries. It is taking some time for us to decide on tariff and other related issues."
The country's telecom watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), issued a consultation paper Wednesday seeking the opinion of
industry stakeholders to determine the service charge.

MNP once implemented will allow subscribers to retain their existing mobile number when they switch from one service provider to another or from one technology to another of the same service provider.

Asked about divestment in state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Behura said: "The ball is now in the court of the finance ministry which will decide time and issue price after concluding necessary consultations with the ministry of communications and IT. The latter will launch disinvestment at a proper time."

Meanwhile, TRAI chairman J S Sarma said the regulator would soon issue a consultation paper on the "National Do Not Call Registry" in two-three weeks.

The registry offers registration for customers to stop telemarketers from calling.

Sarma, who was also present at the meet, said: "The Do Not Call Registry has not found much success. People still get calls from tele-marketers which they do not appreciate."

The regulator is currently in talks with with all concerned stake holders so that it can put a full stop to unsolicited calls.

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