Amidst of all telecom related mess up, it seems everyone is so concerned about 2G spectrum – its policy, allocation, reserve price and all these. But the whole thing is so messed up, considering 2G spectrum is mainly for voice, which is in turn as bread and butter for consumers and operators.
But Govt. is not doing anything to get back the 3G spectrum from STel, one of the operators whose licenses were cancelled by court order in February 2012. During that time STel was operating in 5 circles – Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Orissa, Bihar – Jharkhand and North East and offering 2G/GSM voice and data services.
In 2008 STel got spectrum and UASL in 6 category ‘C’ circles including Jammu and Kashmir. As in February 2012 the operator’s licence was cancelled, its foreign invester BaTelco (Currently BaTelco is looking for a come back in India, via Reliance Communications’s Globalcom) sold its entire stake to Indian partner Sky City Foundation. Siva Group, headed by Sivasankaran has the majority stake in STel. STel also won 5MHz 3G spectrum on 2100 MHz band in Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and Bihar in a valid auction process in 2010; the ownership of those 3G airwave still belong to STel. The company did not roll out 3G services in none of the circles, while its website reads that STel’s network is a 3G-ready network.
At present Stel website (Stel.in) is still alive and offers MNP procedure. Shiva Group’s website also notes for STel as the company’s telecom project and writes that STel owns the 3G spectrum while 2G licences were cancelled. Just after the cancellation of its licenses the company wrote to Prime Minister they will refund the spectrums if Govt. agrees to refund their money wasted for acquiring 2G and 3G spectrum with interests. STel does not seem in a position or desire to start its business again in India, as the company did not participate in any of the 2G auction process lately (Nov 2012 and March 2013).
So the solution is simple, take back the spectrum on 2100MHz from STel and refund the money they paid during 2010 3G auction along with interest, and conduct a small 3G spectrum auction for these three circles. Though I doubt anyone can invest for 3G in those category ‘C’ circles except Telenor who are still giving priority to voice markets.
But is there any movement from Govt to get back STel’s 3G spectrum? No. Nobody knows why. Keeping 3G spectrum unused, it’s no good.