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Indian regulator issues notices cancelling 2G licences

Two Indian operators have received notices of cancellation from the country’s Department of Telecommunications regarding the licences which they hold in certain regions, following their failure to comply with the requisite 2G network deployment criteria...

Two Indian operators – Idea Cellular and Etisalat DB – have received notices of cancellation from the country’s Department of Telecommunications regarding the licences which they hold in certain regions, following their failure to comply with the requisite 2G network deployment criteria.

The operators now have a 60 day period in which to make their case to avoid having their licences rescinded. Idea is chiefly active in the Punjab region, while Etisalat’s activity in Delhi and Mumbai has attracted regulatory attention. The problem appears widespread, with reports claiming that the DoT has already fined various operators a total of INR3 billion (US$66.25 million) for failing to roll out the requisite infrastructure.

The notices have been served following an explosive week for the Indian 2G licensing scandal. Loop Telecom, which was a startup operator during the initial 2008 auction process, has told the government that it can sell its national licence and accompanying spectrum, keeping the profit as long as it refunds the operator’s initial investment. However, the firm has another, rather contradictory condition – it wishes to be able to match the highest bid for its spectrum, so as “to preserve its investments.”

Meanwhile, Shahid Balwa has resigned as the head of DB Realty as a result of the investigation into the activities of Swan Telecom, an operator founded by Balwa which is also implicated in the scandal. He continues in his role of vice-president at Etisalat DB – Swan was rebranded under this name following the acquisition of a 45% stake in the operator by Etisalat.

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