Telecom Commission Favours Raising Spectrum Holding Limit

Telecom Commission Favours Raising Spectrum Holding Limit

Telecom Commission has cleared the raising of spectrum holding limit for mobile operators and DoT is likely to send it this week for Cabinet approval as part of relief measures that have been suggested for the sector by an inter-ministerial group (IMG), an official source said today.

The apex decision-making body of the Department of Telecom (DoT) has concurred with sectoral regulator TRAI's suggestion to raise spectrum holding limit of mobile operators which will ease the exit route for those under stress.

"The DoT will send three proposals of IMG, cleared by Telecom Commission on spectrum cap, deferment of spectrum payment and reduction of interest on penalties to Cabinet this week," the source said.

TRAI had recommended last month that the ceiling on spectrum held by mobile operators within a particular band should be removed. It suggested a 50 percent cap on combined radiowave holding in efficient bands like 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had also suggested that the overall cap on holding spectrum should be raised from the current 25 percent to 35 percent.

As per the current rules, no mobile service provider can hold more than 25 percent spectrum, vital for transmitting signals, in an area and more than 50 percent in a frequency band.

The source said DoT will now send drafts of the relief package cleared by the Telecom Commission based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial panel to Cabinet this week for final approval.

The Commission had earlier approved extension of time period for the payment of spectrum bought in auctions by operators to 16 years from the current 10 years.

It had also approved the IMG recommendation to lower the interest rate on penalties paid by telecom operators by about 2 percent.

The TC today also approved raising the cost of Network for Spectrum project, being executed by state-run firm BSNL for Defence forces, to Rs 24,664 crore and DoT will send it to the Cabinet for final clearance.

A DoT group has proposed to increase the budget for setting up the network under the spectrum project by about Rs 11,300 crore. It will be in addition to around Rs 13,334 crore which was approved by the Cabinet in July 2012.

"This includes around Rs 1,500 crore for network monitoring system," the source said.

The defence ministry and DoT had signed a pact in 2009-10 under which the former had agreed to vacate 25MHz of 3G spectrum and 20MHz in the 2G band in phases. In return, DoT had committed to set up an exclusive defence network for its communication services.

TC approved upgrading of mobile network to be set-up in Andaman and Nicobar for 4G services instead of 2G approved by it in December 2016.

"Now 214 mobile sites with estimated cost of Rs 342 crore will be set for providing 4G services in A&N islands. Earlier approval was for 2G network by setting-up of 179 towers with estimated cost of Rs 262 crore," the source said.

The panel also cleared proposal to connect 5,299 gram panchayats (GPs) under the BharatNet project through satellite connectivity with outlay of Rs 916 crore. The project includes all GPs of North Eastern states and some of the GPs in Chattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir.

"Out of 5,199 GPs, satellite connectivity to 1,407 GPs will be provided immediately by BSNL," the source said.

The TC also approved setting of wifi choupals across 25,000 (GPs) in Uttar Pradesh under BharatNet project by Common Service Centres at estimated cost of Rs 400 core and covering 3,243 GPs in Himachal Pradesh with estimated cost of Rs 51.88 crore.

"The proposal of Rajasthan government to set up wifi hotspot in each gram panchayats of the state with Rs 160 crore fund from BharatNet was approved by the Commission today," the source said.

The TC also approved Trai recommendation to give option to Direct Inward Dialling (DID) service providers, mainly EPABX service provider to Unified Licence in the virtual network operator category.


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