The Indian Supreme Court has extended the 31st August 2012 deadline for conducting fresh 2G spectrum auctions to 11th January 2012, following the Indian government’s plea, reports PTI (via Outlook). The Court has also allowed service providers whose licenses were cancelled following the Court’s verdict in the 2G scam case, to continue operations till 18th January 2013, extending the earlier deadline of 7th September 2012.

According to the report, the Court has warned the government that it would initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against its officials and impose exemplary costs if the auction was not conducted within the time frame prescribed by the Court.

The government had filed an application in the Court asking for time till 12th November 2012 to commence the 2G auction and for an additional 40 days for the process, including allocation of licenses and spectrum, as reported by Zee news. Following the government’s filing of an affidavit giving an undertaking that the 122 2G spectrum licences which were cancelled by the Supreme Court’s  judgement  in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case, giving an assurance that the auctions will be conducted in a time-bound manner, the Court granted extra time.

Implications:

– This would mean that operators like Uninor and MTS, who were to discontinue services on 7th September, will need to operate till January, which would mean an increase in cost. Telcos like Uninor had already decided to focus on select pofitable circles, in the wake of the new auctions. MTS had decided to halt investments in voice business.

– There’s also no clarity if any action would be taken against telcos like STel and Etisalat DB, who have shuttered down operations. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had directed the companies to resume services.

Here’s a timeline of events following the Supreme Court Verdict in the 2G Spectrum Allocation Scam case:

– 2nd Feb 2012: Supreme Court cancels 122 licenses of 22 operators and directed the Government to conduct fresh auctions for sale of the spectrum within a period of four months, asking the TRAI to come up with fresh recommendations.

– 5th March 2012: The Indian government files a review petition in the Supreme Court in response to the Court’s verdict in the 2G spectrum allocation case, asking the court to only review the part of the order where it had deemed the ‘ first-come-first-serve’ spectrum allocation policy of the government flawed.

– 24th April 2012: The TRAI comes out with recommendations on spectrum reserve price, and also proposes refarming in the 900MHz band, and liberalization of spectrum. Telcos express dismay as they feel the price is steep.

– 24th April 2012: The Supreme Court extends the deadline for the auction of 2G licenses which were cancelled by it, from June to 31st August 2012, and asks telcos whose licenses were cancelled to continue services till 7th September.

– 5th July 2012: The Department of  Telecom (DoT) posts a notice on its website announcing guidelines for the upcoming 2G spectrum auction,  including eligibility, amount of spectrum and number of blocks, however, it did not announce the minimum bidding price for the auction.

– 24th July 2012: Reports suggest that the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), the minister panel responsible for finalizing rules for the upcoming 2G spectrum auction, has recommended a reserve price of Rs 14,111 crore and Rs 15,111 crore for a block of 5 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band on a pan-India basis.

– 3rd August 2012: India’s Cabinet of Ministers sets 2G auction price.