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Telecom trio tap tribunal

New Delhi, May 24: Three leading telecom operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — have approached the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against high prices set by Trai for excess 2G spectrum.

The trio today filed a case with the TDSAT, seeking to scrap the telecom regulator’s recommendations on 2G spectrum, including a one-time fee for holding radio waves beyond 6.2MHz. The tribunal will hear the case tomorrow.

With Trai coming under the attack of the operators, telecom minister A. Raja has set up a panel that will study the feasibility of the proposals, said industry experts.

Officials in the department of telecom said the group of ministers that facilitated the process of 3G auctions was also likely to examine the proposals and take a final call.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today promised to take action if corruption was proved “at any level” in the pricing of 2G licences issued in 2008.

Raja is facing political brickbats over selling 2G spectrum cheap to new players with the Opposition demanding his resignation. The allegations have intensified after the sale of high-speed 3G radio waves garnered a massive Rs 68,000 crore. The ongoing sale of broadband wireless spectrum is expected to add another Rs 15,000 crore to the government’s kitty.

In 2008, the telecom ministry granted six mobile licences at Rs 1,650 crore — a price discovered in 2001 — along with 4.4MHz start-up spectrum on a first come, first served basis.

Singh today said Raja had clarified that he granted the licences on the recommendations of the telecom regulator.

At a press conference held on the occasion of the first anniversary of UPA-II, the Prime Minister assured that “if there is any involvement at any level in corruption, we will take action”.

Reacting to the PM’s statement, Raja said he was ready to face any investigation into the alleged scandal.

“It is a universal truth that action will be taken against anyone found guilty (of corruption). I am ready for any investigation but such an inquiry should get to the root of the issue,” Raja told reporters on the sidelines of the World Telecommunications Development Conference 2010 in Hyderabad.

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