In Dec 2007, Chandrasekhar pointed out the revenue implications if one revisited the 2001 rate, which was Rs 1.65 crore in view of the rising teledensity, inflation and rapidly widening consumer base. Chandrasekhar told the JPC on Thursday that corporate bodies were queuing up for licences. Chandrasekhar, although, did not speak about any specific entry fee, but he held that a revision would have added to the revenues.
He said factors like trying to achieve a level-playing field between the old and new operators and Trai recommendations had influenced the government's decision but the Opposition strongly felt that Chandrasekhar's evidence indeed backed their allegations that spectrum was sold at a cheaper rate of Rs 10,000 crore.
The Congress, which is leading the UPA government at the Centre, clashed with the Opposition BJP and Left parties over the 2G airwaves that were sold in 2008 at 2001 rates. While the Congress defended its move saying affordability of cellphone services was its priority, the Opposition claimed that the Supreme Court order cancelling the licences proved that there were cases of graft involved.
When CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta asked whether Chandrasekhar had given the advice to the PM keeping in mind a buoyant market, the former Cabinet Secretary said there was a long line of private players who were keen to enter the sector for it had presented an investment opportunity. The telecom ministry was then led by DMK's A Raja, a prime accused in the scam.
It is learnt that the PM had sought advices from various quarters ahead of issuing the licences and also asked Chandrasekhar to examine the possibility of increasing revenues. Singh had also written to Raja in Nov 2007 to look at auctioning as an option but the idea was turned down by the latter.