Unified telecom licence amended; relief to operators

Accepting the industry demand, the Department of Telecom has amended the unified telecom licence to do away with the clause which operators claimed mandated 'forced migration' to the new regime.

The initial unified licence (new regime) mandated operators to migrate all their telecom licences to the new regime on expiry of one in any of their circles, which the industry had dubbed as 'forced migration'.

The amendment has done away with the clause that read: "However, the telecom service provider has to migrate all of its existing licences."

The amended clause now reads: "In order to ensure that the UL (unified licence) regime covers all existing licences, a migration path if offered to the existing licences to migrate to UL regime. Licences of any of the existing Telecom Services Provider shall be eligible to migrate to UL with any number of additional services."

Under the initial version of unified licence, Airtel and Vodafone were the first set of companies which needed to move all their existing permits to new regime by the last quarter of 2014.

Airtel's two licences, Delhi and Kolkata, and Vodafone's three licences - Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai - are due to expire in last quarter of 2014.

Post-amendment, the two operators do not need to shift all their existing licences to new regime by last quarter of 2014.

The amended version brings relief to even pureplay internet service providers where most of the players are either mid-size and small companies.

Cellular Operators Association of India in a letter to DoT had said that unified licence guidelines require compulsory migration to the new regime under several circumstances.

"We hope that the way department has taken industry advise for this amendment very positively. Similarly, they will also consider our demand of not imposing any license fee on pure internet and broadband as this will effect directly to price rise of broadband," Internet Service Providers Association of India's President Rajesh Chharia told PTI.

For migrating to the new regime, an operator is required to pay one time non-refundable entry fee of Rs 15 crore for obtaining new licences to provide all kinds of telecom services.

Besides, operators are required to provide performance bank guarantee of Rs 220 crore and financial bank guarantee of Rs 44 crore.

An internet service provider is required to pay Rs 30 lakh for national level licence, Rs 2 crore PBG and Rs 10 lakh as FBG.

In the new amendments, DoT also mentioned the frequency band that will be considered as access spectrum which are the airwaves used for transmitting signals to end-subscribers. There was an ambiguity that access spectrum will cover free airwaves that are used for wi-fi services.

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