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Forget 2G Spectrum Scam, WiMAX Scam is here

The people of India have still not recovered from the 2G spectrum scam, and there is another scam to rock them. This time it is WiMAX Spectrum scam. An internal committee has found no. of irregularities in the tendering process for the award of WiMAX spectrum to four franchisees by BSNL to provide broadband services during the term of former telecom minister A Raja.

Sources said the committee headed has fixed responsibility on the then CMD and the board of the company. The committee also found that the revenue sharing model was designed so that it benefited more the franchise rather than the company itself. It is expected that the selected franchisees would be rejected and fresh tenders ordered once the committee’s findings are accepted and ratified by the Department of Telecommunications.

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal had ordered the inquiry into the selection of franchisees for WiMAX in February. He at the time of ordering the enquiry said, “I ordered a probe myself when I came to know about this. Whatever wrong has taken place in the department needs to be cleaned up.”

WiMAX is the technologies to provide faster wireless broadband access, which has the potential to fuel the government’s various e-governance programmes. BSNL had paid R8, 314 crore to the government in May last year to get the spectrum. When contacted, DoT secretary R Chandrasekhar said, “I am not aware of the contents of the report as the committee is still finalizing it. As and when we receive it, we will look into it.”

BSNL had awarded the franchise to roll out its WiMAX network to 4 franchisees, namely, Soma Networks, Teracom, Take Solutions and Ampoules & Auto Pvt Ltd. According to the model, the franchisees were supposed to deploy the WiMAX network while BSNL would provide infrastructure like premises, towers and media connectivity. The company had entered into agreements with the franchisees for rolling out WiMAX services areas of Himachal Pradesh, apart from the Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh (West), Rajasthan, Karnataka, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra service areas under this model.

As per the guidelines laid down at that time, it was mandatory for the eligible bidders to have a turnover of at least R100 crore per year for two consecutive years. But, Ampoules & Auto Pvt Ltd wasn’t eligible as per this guideline. And later on, the company’s name was changed to Starnet Communications Pvt Ltd and six years of pending annual returns were filed within two days.

The deal with Soma Networks was signed by BSNL in 2007 without any tendering process. The other franchisee partners were short listed by BSNL in 2010 after a bidding process. After the alleged bids were received, the guidelines were altered. It has also been alleged that some of these franchisee partners exist only on paper and are shell companies that belong to Raja’s aides and close relatives.

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