Spectrum Sharing, Trading Guidelines to Be Finalised in 3 Months

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The government is expected to finalise most-awaited spectrum sharing and trading guidelines in three months, Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg said on Monday.

“Spectrum sharing and trading guidelines are now one of key things in our agenda. The Trai has already given its recommendations. In next three months we will be in position to give out spectrum sharing and trading guidelines,” Garg told PTI in an interview.

He said that the Department of Telecom has almost finalised new penalty rules which should be out in one-and-a-half months.

Spectrum sharing guidelines will allow telecom companies to share their un-utilised airwaves with other service providers in the same telecom circle.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) last year recommended sharing of all categories of telecom airwaves held by operators including spectrum allocated at old price of Rs. 1,658 crores or assigned without auction.

The regulator also recommended to allow trading of spectrum. As of now, only government is allowed to allocate spectrum to telecom firms through auctions. Once the trading is allowed, it is expected to increase efficient use of radiowaves by enabling telecom operators, who have a lower subscriber base or un-utilised spectrum, to trade in it.

Telecom operators Sistema Shyam Teleservices and Telewings (Uninor), which missed to buy spectrum in the auction that ended last week, are waiting for these guidelines to expand their businesses.

Garg said that with these guidelines companies will be able to lower the cost of spectrum and operate more efficiently.

The spectrum auction concluded on March 25 fetched government bids worth Rs. 1,09,874.91 crores which is about 35 percent higher than the base price.

The government was criticised by industry for fixing higher reserve price. Garg said that final auction price has proved that government’s calculation of reserve price was right and industry has invested in buying spectrum after assessing business case.

The Telecom Secretary said that as per an analysis, annual impact on operators would be around Rs. 5,300 crores and impact on calls rates will be about Rs. 0.013 per minute.

He rebutted charges that government designed auction with interest to maximise its revenues.

“If this was our intention, why we would have offered extra spectrum in auction? The auction that came up from expiring licences was about 35 percent of total spectrum put for sale. The 2100MHz band spectrum auction was pending since last 7-8 years. Our Minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) showed will to resolve it and we were able to get 5MHz of 2100MHz band for auction,” Garg said.

Talking about long-pending penalty rules, Garg said, “We have almost finalised them and these are under re-examination. The norms should be done in one or one-and-a-half months.”

Inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission in March 2014 had approved a new penalty scheme, which has five slabs ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 50 crores, for violation of norms by mobile operators but are yet to be notified.

Under the proposed scheme, penalty will start with a warning that invites a fine of Rs. 1 lakh for minor violation of norms. Penalties of Rs. 1 crore, Rs. 5 crores, Rs. 20 crores and Rs. 50 crores would be imposed in line with severity of the violation.

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