|Телеком||ТВ и медиа||Облака||ПО||Кадры|
|ИТ в образовании||ИТ в медицине||Big Data||E-commerce||Спутниковая связь|
|Все новости||World News|
India telecom minister quits over mobile licence row
|16 ноября 2010|
Indian Telecommunications Minister A. Raja resigned late Sunday, the third government official to resign amid corruption allegations in less than two weeks.
Local news agency Press Trust of India reported the government has named Kapil Sibal, minister for human resources and development, to take additional charge of the telecommunications ministry until a replacement for Raja is appointed.
Raja was forced to leave after he faced scrutiny by the opposition over claims he favored some telecommunications firms over others in their application for radio airways, or spectrum. India's Supreme Court is also scheduled to hear a petition filed against Raja on the corruption charges.
Specifically, Raja is accused of having allocated spectrum to nine telecommunications companies in an irregular manner and at hugely discounted prices in 2008. The allegation is that these practices cost the country as much as $40 billion. The Prime Minister's Office Monday said Raja's resignation has been accepted. Raja wasn't immediately available for a comment.
Speaking to reporters, after submitting his resignation late Sunday, Raja denied any wrongdoing adding he resigned "in order to avoid an embarrassing situation to the government and...Parliament."
Media reports suggest several Indian agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigations and the Enforcement Directorate placed Raja under investigation. Officials at both federal agencies weren't immediately available for a comment.
Raja's resignation comes shortly after former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and former Congress Parliamentary Party Secretary Suresh Kalmadi stepped down over separate corruption allegations. This comes at a time when Parliament is struggling to focus on its legislative agenda.
The opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, has brought parliamentary proceedings to a halt over the spectrum issue ever since Parliament's winter session started on Nov. 9. Raja said he agreed to step down on the advice of M. Karunanidhi, leader of Raja's Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam party, a coalition partner of the ruling Congress Party.
"I'll prove that I did everything in accordance with the law," added Raja on Sunday.
One of the most serious charges against Raja is that he retroactively changed the deadline for applying for spectrum from Oct.1 2007 to Sept. 25 in order to favor firms that applied earlier while leaving others out.
Opposition party members also accuse Raja of massively undervaluing the so-called 2G spectrum, frequencies used to transmit phone calls and text messages to mobile phones. They allege he sold each license for a fixed price of about $366 million, a small sum compared to the auctioned price for one slot of nationwide bandwidth for third-generation, or 3G, services which went for about ten times that amount at a government spectrum auction earlier this year. 3G spectrum powers internet wireless signals on phones.
Raja says his move to allocate spectrum to nine new industry players helped drive down prices and sparked massive subscriber growth. India now has more than 670 million cellphone subscribers and continues to add new users.
Last week, Chavan stepped down amid media reports that he allowed a housing project meant for war veterans and widows to be used by government bureaucrats and civilians. Separately, Kalmadi also stepped down following charges of corruption in the recent Commonwealth Games, where he was the chairman of the organising committee.
Chavan and Kalmadi could not be immediately reached for comment.
The resignation has sparked investors' fears that some of the much needed regulations could once again be delayed with a new person taking charge of this highly administered industry.
The new minister may want to reassess the sector and may seek policy changes, which could delay the implementation of much needed recommendations, said Harit Shah, an analyst at Mumbai-based brokerage Karvy Stock Broking.
One of the most important issue that needs to be immediately addressed is pricing, say analysts.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India proposes that the country charge the operators a one-time fee for exceeding a certain amount of bandwidth for their 2G services. The regulator suggests that the fee be linked to the value of third-generation bandwidth.
But analysts say such a move is unpopular with the country's telecom operators as the fee will likely add to their costs.
Also, Romal Shetty, telecom analyst at consultancy firm KPMG, says the government needs to get a mergers and acquisitions policy out since consolidation is expected.
Ultra-low call charges are hurting companies' earnings amid intense competition in the world's fastest-growing telecom market and any M&A activity will likely bring pricing stability.
Also on the agenda is the much delayed roll-out of the mobile number portability service that allows customers to switch to another provider while retaining their phone number.
The launch has been delayed three times because some telecom operators weren't prepared and India has said it will implement the service on Nov. 25.