Telecom Commission may take call on spectrum charge tomorrow

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Inter-Ministerial panel Telecom Commission may take a call tomorrow on long-pending issues, including the spectrum usage charge, that may decide the fate of the upcoming spectrum auction.

The decision of the panel will be placed before the Empowered Group of Ministers for the final nod. The EGoM is likely to meet on January 27, which is also the last date for withdrawal of applications filed by telecom companies.

Major telecom operators including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have written to the Department of Telecom to take a call on SUC before auction starts on February 3.

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

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had suggested a uniform fee 3-5 per cent from April 1, across 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 those radiowaves that have been already allocated.

The Finance Ministry has suggested that mobile operators winning in the auction should be charged only 3 per cent of their revenue as annual fee for radiowaves they hold.

For BWA players, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) suggested continuation of 1 per cent, but charge them weighted average of 3 per cent and 1 per cent if they buy spectrum in upcoming auction.

Indicating strong interest in the forthcoming round, eight telecom service providers, including seven GSM operators have applied for participating in spectrum auction scheduled to start from February 3.

None of the operators had participated in the auctions in March last year, and only five had taken part in the November 2012 bidding.

Applicants include Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone, Airtel, Aircel, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular, Telewings (Uninor) and Reliance Communications.

About 403 megahertz of 2G spectrum in the 1800 MHz band and 46 MHz of spectrum in the premium 900 MHz band is being put up for auction.

Overall, the government has set a revenue target of Rs 40,874.50 crore which includes Rs 11,343 crore upfront from auctions in this fiscal.

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