The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to reject the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on introducing a uniform spectrum usage charge (SUC) of three per cent for all telecom service providers.
According DoT, the ministry has said the slab-based SUC regime cannot be changed as the terms of the notice inviting applications (NIA), contracts and bindings between the government and telecom service providers cannot be changed by the government.
There is no provision of change in rates in the NIA for broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction, it stated. DoT added bidders had finalised the auction price based on the SUC rates prescribed in the NIA of BWA spectrum auction.
Post facto increase in SUC rate after three years is a violation of contract, it noted.
At present, SUC varies from 3-8 per cent depending on spectrum holding. Incumbent operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, BSNL and MTNL, who have more spectrum with them, pay spectrum usage charges of up to 8 per cent. Reliance Jio had opposed the move saying that it would have to pay more as its spectrum usage charge for broadband wireless access spectrum currently is pegged at one per cent of revenue.
DoT, in its recent discussion, has said that voice was allowed earlier for BWA spectrum holders, but the ISP licence holders were not permitted to provide voice services. With Unified Licencing, the Government has permitted the migration of ISP licencees to unified licencing regime with additional fees. And delinking of spectrum with licences does not override the provisions of NIA, it added.
According to the NIA of BWA spectrum auction in 2010, it was noted that BWA spectrum holders will be allowed to provide voice services and the SUC was fixed at one%, DoT said, pointing out that the NIA was prepared after deliberation with the regulator on the issue.