Mukherjee to head ministerial panel on 3G spectrum (Lead)

March 5th, 2009 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) The government Thursday named External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee - seen as the man for all reasons - as the head of a group of ministers (GoM) formed to suggest the base price for third generation (3G) radio spectrum, giving hope that the auction may still take place before elections.
The GoM will not only decide the minimum bid amount for the scarce radio frequency, but also the number of players who can offer the next generation mobile phone services in each circle, officials said.

India has been divided into 23 circles for telecom services.

The others include Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Telecom Minister A. Raja, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad and Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Law and Justice Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia are the other members of the panel that was set up by the cabinet.

“The GoM has been formed giving all of us hope that 3G auction can take place before the election,” Cellular Operators Association of India director general T.V. Ramachandran told IANS.

“If the auctions were not tenable then why would the government form the GoM?” he asked.

However, the poll dates for the Lok Sabha elections were announced Monday, laying down the model code of conduct, which bars the government from taking any fresh decisions that could influence the voters’ decisions.

“The auction process can be considered as an administrative action and the election commission can consider it, since everything is ready from the policy to the auction procedure and also the auctioneer,” Ramachandran said.

The country needs 3G as it is broadband-starved and this is the first requirement for the economy to progress, he added.

Communications Minister Raja had said late last month that auction of spectrum would be held before March 31.

“There are still chances of completing the entire auction process before the end of this fiscal,” he had told reporters on the sidelines of a function to launch an e-governance centre here.

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