Arun Shourie, former Union Minister for Disinvestment & Telecom under the NDA regime, speaking at the India Today Conclave held in Delhi last week, said that their government was working on unifying all licenses, but then the government changed. “By the time the government had changed in 2004, we were looking to unify the licenses”, Shourie said, “which would have prevented such things (2G Spectrum Scam) from happening. At that time, there were 28 types of licenses.” The plan was to unify all licenses, so that any service provider could provide any service through any technology, anywhere in the country to any consumer. “Secondly,” he added, “have a low entry fee – almost an authorization to anybody who wants to come in, and delink licensing from spectrum and auction the spectrum.”

Shourie said that that the Indian telecom regulator TRAI was going to submit a report in six months on this matter, following which there would be an intermediate period for the license regime, prior to the unification. “It would have meant that discretionary powers would have gone down, and this is what was killed. And I’m sorry that it was killed by a very articulate and good man in Dayanidhi Maran, because one of the consequences of the whole unification would have been that television could also have been provided by telecom operators.”

Shourie is essentially pointing towards a case of conflict of interest, since Dayanidhi Maran’s brother Kalanidhi Maran is the promoter of the Sun TV group, and has a joint venture with Astro for the Sun DTH service. As we’ve mentioned before there is a need for unification of licenses for distribution, across Cable, ISP, Mobile, Radio, IPTV, Mobile TV, among others, as these are essentially modes of distribution of content, and a single Foreign Direct Investment limit should apply. Additionally, especially in case of Radio and Mobile TV, content needs to be separated carriage (distribution).