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All spectrum pricing issues to be completed before Feb 4: Sibal


Welcoming the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to allow telecom companies whose licences were cancelled last February to continue operations till February 4, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal today said that he hoped the fresh auction of 2G airwaves will be completed well within the timeframe -- before March.

The extension of the licences was reflective of the "sound decisions made by the government", Mr. Sibal said in New Delhi.

He added that all issues related to the pricing of spectrum will be completed before February 4, the date when the Supreme Court will hear the case next.

The telecommunications ministry had argued before the court that allowing the carriers to operate until the next airwave auction, due in March, will help generate more interest in the auction after the government failed to sell all available spectrum in an auction last November.

Only 55 per cent of the GSM spectrum on offer was bid for in the auction, which lasted just two days. Only five players participated in the auction of GSM spectrum, while the auction for CDMA airwaves was called off after the two interested companies - Tata Teleservices and Videocon - pulled out. The high base price of Rs. 14,000 crore was cited as the main reason for poor response from telcos. Two key circles - Delhi and Mumbai - saw no bidders.

Post this poor response, the empowered group of ministers, led by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, decided to hold a second auction of the airwaves in March.

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