EGoM decision on SUC on Monday: Sibal

Tags: News
The Empowered Group of Ministers will meet next Monday to finalise the spectrum usage charge (SUC) so that the auction of radiowaves can proceed as planned from February 3, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said today.

"The EGoM will be meeting on January 27 on SUC and therefore it will be cleared before the auctions and before the date of withdrawal of applications by the companies," Sibal told reporters here.

The Empowered Group of Ministers on telecom is headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Monday is also the last date for withdrawal of applications by companies which have applied for bids. The applicants include Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone, Airtel, Aircel, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular, Telewings (Uninor) and Reliance Communications.

Inter-Ministerial panel Telecom Commission (TC) may take a call tomorrow on spectrum usage charge and other long pending issues. TC's views will be forwarded to the EGoM.

The spectrum usage charge (SUC) is a bone of contention between leading GSM players and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm. It is levied annually as a percentage of revenue earned by telecom companies. It varies from 3 to 8 per cent.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) has suggested a uniform fee 3 to 5 per cent from April 1 across the telecom services for the success of the next round of spectrum auction.

GSM industry body Cellular Operators Association of India is demanding that the government implement Trai suggestion.

On the other hand, Reliance Jio and Videocon Telecom are opposing any change in existing SUC regime, specially airwaves that have been already allocated.

If Trai's recommendations are accepted, then it will burden firms holding broadband wireless access spectrum, including Reliance Jio that at present pays 1 per cent spectrum usage charge.

When asked about whether the government is open to a uniform SUC charges, Sibal said that it is a complex issue and no decision has been taken on it.

"There are legacy issues. People have got spectrum at different rates, at different times and at different prices and any decision we take which has an impact on one set of players actually is against the other set of players. So we need to be very careful that we don't be seen to be favouring one set of players but at the same time rationalise the sector.

"We have to make sure that revenue to the government don't stop. These are complexities in the issue and so we are going to the EGoM on Monday," Sibal said.

He also expressed hope that the auctions will be very successful. "From the participation of operators it is clear that it is going to be very successful."

Sibal was in city to launch a free roaming services of MTNL in Delhi and Mumbai.

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