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    Supreme Court Registry denies plea for administrative allocation of spectrum: Report

    The Supreme Court has not accepted the Indian government’s request to allow the administrative allocation of spectrum in certain cases, according to a report by the Economic Times. In the 2G spectrum case in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the spectrum had to be auctioned since it was a national resource. The Indian government had approached the court in December last year to seek a clarification on this verdict, stating that the assignment of spectrum was not always required for commercial telecom services but also for non-commercial use, including the discharge of sovereign and public interest functions, and spectrum for space communications.

    The Supreme Court registrar has, however, refused to receive the government’s application for a clarification on the 2G verdict saying that the government was seeking a review of the 2012 order “in the guise” of seeking clarifications and there is no “reasonable cause” for entertaining the plea and that too after a lengthy period of time.

    Some context:

    Satellite communication (satcom) providers such as Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper notably urged for administrative allocation in their responses to a consultation carried out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in June last year. They argued that using the auction process (which is used to allocate spectrum for terrestrial communication) would artificially limit competition and would negatively impact the affordability of connectivity services for underserved areas of the country.

    Following this demand, the Telecommunication Act which was passed in December 2023 allowed for administrative allocation of spectrum for a range of services including national security and defense and also satellite communication. Given that the Supreme Court registry has refused the government’s request for clarification on the 2G judgment, it is unclear how the satcom spectrum would be allocated.

    It is notable here that Elon Musk, the founder of satcom provider Starlink was recently expected to visit India. Soon before his planned visit, the Indian government notified an amendment to the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, allowing 100% foreign direct investment in the space sector. Musk was expected to announce a $2-3 billion EV factory for India during the visit along with some announcements related to Starlink. However, he has since postponed his visit and instead visited China, citing “very heavy Tesla obligations”.


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