Another spectrum scam ?
Another spectrum scam hit the UPA government which is already reeling from the fallout of allegations of corruption in the underpricing of 2G airwaves sold to telecom operators. The government on Monday scrambled to cancel what appeared to be an improper deal where a private company would have got 70MHz of spectrum free. The scam involves the Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation and has a direct bearing on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who holds charge of the department of space. Both BJP and Left parties were quick to demand an investigation, stressing Singh’s cabinet responsibility. The beneficiary, Devas Multimedia, is in a joint venture with Isro-affliate Antrix to offer satellite broadband services on various platforms, including mobile telephony. The government last year earned Rs 67,719 crore just by auctioning 15MHz of similar airwaves for 3G mobile services. It got another Rs 38,000 crore by auctioning spectrum for broadband wireless access services which some operators propose to use to launch 4G services. The Isro spectrum can be used for providing mobile broadband services using 4G technologies such as WiMax and Long-Term Evolution. If sold at the same price government got for 15MHz of 3G spectrum, the sale of Isro spectrum could have significantly lowered the fiscal deficit estimated at Rs 3.8 lakh crore this year. With the deal under attack, Isro indicated it could be revoked shortly. In a statement, the space agency said, “The agreement entered into by Antrix with Devas is already under review by the department of space and the government will take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard public interest. A decision on the matter is likely to be taken soon”.