Telecom Commission permits 4G airwave holders to offer voice services
Moneylife Digital Team 19 February 2013

The internet service provider licence holders who hold BWA spectrum, if they wish to provide mobile services using that spectrum, then an additional fee of Rs1,658 crore will be levied for migration to Unified Licences,” Telecom Commission chairman and telecom secretary R Chandrashekhar said

Inter-ministerial body, Telecom Commission (TC), on Monday approved provision for companies holding internet services licences with spectrum to provide phone call service by paying additional fee of Rs1,658 crore each.


“The Commission broadly endorsed recommendation of the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) committee with regard to Unified Licensing regime... The ISP (internet service provider) licence holders who hold BWA spectrum if they wish to provide using that spectrum then an additional fee of Rs1,658 crore will be levied for migration to Unified Licences (UL),” TC chairman and telecom secretary R Chandrashekhar told reporters.


The framework for new licences will be ready by end of this financial year, he added.


In 2010, six private players—RJI, formerly Infotel Broadband, Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Qualcomm, Tikona Digital and Augere—had won BWA spectrum.


Bharti Airtel and Aircel have unified access services licence under which they are allowed to provide phone call services both on fixed as well as landline. Other companies were given Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence that has restrictions on providing phone call services across networks.


The additional amount of Rs1,658 crore was charged from telecom players till 2008 for providing mobile telephony.


The licence issued to mobile telephony operators for Rs1,658 crore had 4.4 Mhz spectrum bundled with it but government has announced providing no spectrum with UL. The current value of the quantum of spectrum allocated under old licences has increased around seven times.


“UL does not include any spectrum. Grant of UL including migration to UL does not include any spectrum,” Mr Chandrashekhar said.


The TC, however, deferred decision on bringing telecom tower companies, called IP-1, under licences.


“Issue of IP-1 operators under UL regime was deferred and it was decided that this required further study of certain aspects,” Mr Chandrashekhar said.


Companies like Bharti Infratel, GTL Infrastructure and Indus Towers are involved in IP-1 business. The DoT committee had recommended bringing IP-1 companies under licence regime.


Telecom regulator TRAI has recommended a charge of 8% licence fee to IP-1 companies once they are brought under licences.


For companies who wish to continue to “provide limited services like only internet services under cafeteria approach they can do so with a lower entry fee which will be same as present,” the telecom secretary said.


The TC also endorsed around Rs3,000 crore support for mobile services in the left-wing extremist affected areas through Universal Service Obligation Fund for a period of five years.


“This proposal will have to be finally approved by the Cabinet,” Mr Chandrashekhar added.

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