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Telecom panel clears easing spectrum limit

Telecom panel clears easing spectrum limit

Confirming the ET Now newsbreak, the Telecom Commission, the apex decision-making body at the Department of Telecom (DoT), on Tuesday approved TRAI recommendations on spectrum holding norms.

During the consultation process, while most operators pitched for a relaxation in the caps, one of the large telecom companies was not in favour of relaxing the intra-band cap of 50 per cent on account that it could lead to one operator monopolising spectrum in a given band. Notably, ET Now's Tushar Chakrabarty first reported the story on January 01. "It was also said in the meeting that the work on NFS should be expedited", the official said. Also, latest entrant Reliance Jio also announced acquisition of assets such as spectrum, towers and telecom fibre from debt-ridden Reliance Communications.

The official added that the Telecom Commission had also approved upgradation of an earlier project to provide 2G mobile services in Andaman and Nicobar islands to 4G mobile services at a cost of ₹343 crore, as against the earlier approved ₹262 crore.

This was done after an inter-ministerial group - constituted to look into the financial health of the sector - recommended that the said matter be referred to the regulator.

In November a year ago, Trai recommended relaxation of norms - operators should be allowed to hold 35% of the total spectrum assigned in a circle.

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In November a year ago, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had proposed the removal of ceiling on spectrum held by mobile operators within a particular band while suggesting a 50 percent cap on the combined radio wave holding inefficient bands like 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz.

"Post these, the sector will transform into a three-player oligopoly with top-three large telcos, one government-owned BSNL/MTNL and Aircel, which is scaling down operations".

One telecom service provider submitted that while a number of consolidations are on-going in the telecom industry, it is essential to ensure that level playing field is not upset to address entity specific challenges with spectrum caps. This move will further delay Arpu (average revenue per user) recovery.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) will send drafts of the relief package cleared by the Telecom Commission based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial panel to Cabinet this week for final approval. It had also approved the IMG recommendation to lower the interest rate on penalties paid by telecom operators by about 2%.


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