Telecom Commission likely to meet on January 7

Tags: News
The inter-ministerial body Telecom Commission (TC) is likely to meet on January 7 mainly to discuss proposal of levying uniform annual fee on spectrum usage across all players in the sector.

"Probably on January 7," a government official told PTI when asked about date for TC meeting.

The views of TC will be sent to the Empowered Group of Ministers on telecom, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, which will take a call on it.

The EGoM could also determine whether their decision will need final approval from Cabinet.

Sources have confirmed that the panel will discuss recommendation made by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for levying a uniform spectrum usage charge (SUC) of 3 per cent of revenue earned by mobile operators from telecom services from April 1, 2014 and keeping the upper limit of SUC at 5 percent.

Levied annually by the government SUC at present varies from 3-8 per cent for mobile service providers and 1 per cent for holders of broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum that can be used for 4G services.

The uniform SUC, if implemented as per recommendations made by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, will provide relief for mobile operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, but will increase rates for BWA spectrum holders including Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL).

The DoT is likely to place before inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission six different scenarios based on probable revenue impact for the exchequer, linked to changes in annual fee to be paid by companies on spectrum usage.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) committee, which examined TRAI's recommendations, stated that after "deliberating on the matter (uniform spectrum usage charge) in totality, a revenue neutral SUC rate may be determined," sources said.

The first scenarios proposed to be placed before TC include acceptance of charging 3 per cent SUC recommended by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India starting with the purchase of airwaves in the upcoming auction. It is of the view that in this case there should be no change in existing slab rate if telecom companies buy additional spectrum.

Further, the proposed upper slab rate under this scenario is 5 percent and SUC for BWA spectrum is to be raised to 3 per cent from existing 1 per cent, the DoT panel is learnt to have said.

If this option is accepted by the government then revenue from six licences that are expiring in 2014 will be reduced to Rs 226 crore from Rs 426 crore that they paid in 2011-12 under the existing rates.

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