The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), juggling industry demand for more wireless spectrum, will insist on rationing the scarce resource but may relax licence fees that could aid aspiring new players.
DoT is in no hurry to allocate beyond 10 megahertz (MHz) per circle to leading incumbent operators and licence fees do not automatically create spectrum entitlements for new players, a key official told Hindustan Times. But existing licence holders without required spectrum may soon get their allocation.
“We do not give spectrum beyond 10 MHz. The telecom industry is growing. So the question arises: should I keep some spectrum in reserve for expansion in future, or allocate completely to the incumbent operators?” he said.
India has the highest number of operators per circle, and the number is likely to go up as the new entrants arrive. DoT has received 518 applications for new licences after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended free entry of players in August.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, BSNL and BPL Mobile have already been allocated 10 MHz of spectrum in certain circles but some other operators are making do with less. The incumbent and new operators may also expect changes in the licence fees, which are currently at 10 per cent, 8 per cent and 6 per cent for A, B and C circles respectively.
The official ruled out auction of 2G spectrum in 900,800 and 1800MHz band, or even auction of licences, or any lock-in period before any operator can exit, or any increase in the existing entry fee of Rs 1,600 crore.
“We do not rule out changes in revenue sharing arrangement. TRAI’s recommendations should fit into the reality of a dynamic telecom industry,” the official said.