These PSUs paid for spectrum, frequencies they did not even use: CAG

An audit by the CAG has found that ONGC, GAIL were assigned spectrums, frequencies which they paid for but did not use

  • ONGC surrendered the allotted spectrum in 3.3-3.4 GHz and 7 GHz respectively in December 2019 and November 2020 without using it even for a single day
  • GAIL (India) Limited obtained licenses in three frequency ranges for 58 Wireless Telegraph stations but used only 30 and paid Rs 1.80 cr for 58 stations

New Delhi: An audit by the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) has found that ONGC (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation) paid charges for spectrum that remained unutilised for four to nine years before surrendering it, while GAIL (India) Limited obtained licenses in three frequency ranges for 58 Wireless Telegraph stations but used only 30. The CAG report has also placed AAI (Airports Authority of India) in the dock for non-utilisation of frequency spots assigned to it for several years. The report, which was tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday, said, “DoT may ensure that PSUs like ONGC and GAIL etc use the assigned spectrum optimally and efficiently and surrender unutilsed frequencies.”

“Our analysis of database of spectrum assignments to selected Government users viz. Railways, AAI, GAIL, IOCL, ONGC, etc. revealed large scale mismatch. Many frequencies stated to be assigned as per WPC records were not available/ used by these Departments/ Agencies and many frequencies used by them were not found in the NFR of WPC. This indicates that database of spectrum users/ licenses/ authorizations maintained by WPC, DoT is not updated,” the CAG has said.

ONGC surrendered spectrum without using it for a single day

Pulling up ONGC for its failure to commission its planned networks due to poor contract management, the CAG said that the PSU surrendered the allotted spectrum in 3.3-3.4 GHz and 7 GHz respectively in December 2019 and November 2020 without using it even for a single day. “Thus, spectrum in these important bands remained unutilized for four to nine years,” the report has said.

“DoT gave network approval (June 2012) for establishing RF spectrum-based communication network in frequency range of 3300-3400 MHz to ONGC for operations in North East and Southern Parts of India. ONGC surrendered the spectrum in December 2019 without utilizing it for a single day and had to pay Rs 38.12 crore towards spectrum charges to DoT,” said the CAG.

“In March 2017, ONGC requested WPC for frequency authorisation for deployment of Onshore Microwave Backbone Network at Mumbai to cater to its high bandwidth requirements. However, ONGC again surrendered the spectrum on 17 November 2020 after paying license fee/ royalty of Rs 5.76 crore,” the CAG noted.

It also added that ONGC did not obtain requisite WOL for several frequencies being used by them. “ONGC uses spectrum in both IMT and non IMT bands but did not have any laid down guidelines, procedure for spectrum management to ensure its optimal use, said the CAG report.

GAIL paid Rs 1.80 cr for 58 stations, used only 30: CAG

GAIL obtained (March 2011) license in three frequency ranges 1448/ 1497, 1456/ 1505 and 1464/ 1513 for 58 Wireless Telegraph stations. The license fees for point to point/ multipoint was Rs 58,000 and royalty fees was Rs 1.80 crore. However, GAIL had been using only 30 stations instead of 58 stations and paying the spectrum charges of Rs 1,80,58,000 per annum applicable for 58 stations. GAIL had not taken any action for surrender of frequency authorizations for 28 stations and to revise the spectrum charges payable,” said the CAG.

On being pointed out by audit, the management stated (July 2021) that it paid only Rs 28,000 per annum in excess as license fee and there was no change in royalty fee (of Rs 1.80 crore). However, the management has not assessed the actual requirement of frequency authorisation in this band and surrender the frequency no more required by it, said the report.

AAI didn’t use frequency spots for 3-12 yrs

Pointing out the sub-optimal utilisation of frequency spots assigned to AAI, the CAG said that these spots remained unutlised for years together at various Airports owing to delayed procurement of equipment/ non completion of projects in time.

“Frequency spots assigned to AAI remained unutilised for periods from three to 12 years due to non-completion of related projects at Airports. Above instances indicate non utilization of frequencies allotted to AAI for periods ranging from 3-13 years due to reasons stated above. Non surrender of allotted frequencies for such a long period leads to inefficient and sub optimal utilisation of spectrum,” said the CAG.

“AAI may introduce a mechanism for periodical review of utilization of assigned frequencies and adhere to the regulatory provisions governing use of wireless equipment/ networks,” it added.

(PSU Watch– India’s Business News centre that places the spotlight on PSUs, Bureaucracy, Defence and Public Policy is now on Google News. Click here to follow. Also, join PSU Watch Channel in your Telegram. You may also follow us on Twitter here and stay updated.)