India’s telecoms ministry seeks clarification regarding 2G licence ruling

01 March 2012 |

India’s telecoms ministry is seeking clarifications and directions from the Supreme Court on the timing of its 2G spectrum auction, as the country continues to struggle to overcome the aftermath of its spectrum scandal.

At the beginning of February the Supreme Court ruled that 122 2G licences awarded in 2008 were to be cancelled, and tasked the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India with re-auctioning the licences within four months.

The telecoms ministry said on Wednesday that it would take at least 400 days from the initial ruling for the auction to be completed, which has left a number of operators in further turmoil.

Several international players have exited the Indian market since the scandal, including Batelco, which decided to sell its stake in operator STel. Etisalat also said that it will shut down its Indian joint venture, writing off an estimated $827 million.

For Telenor, which has made a significant investment in its Indian operation, Uninor, shutting down is less of an option. Telenor placed the blame for the loss of Uninor’s licences on its partner, Indian real estate company, Unitech, accusing it of "fraud and misrepresentation" and is now seeking to form a fresh venture with the business, which has an estimated 36 million subscribers.

According to news wire Reuters, the Indian government will file a review petition with the Supreme Court on Friday as it has “some issues” with the observations made by the court in last month’s order.

Pressure is on the Indian government to present a resolution to the licensing situation before more international players decide to cut their losses and leave the country.