BSNL, TRAI want India to cut spectrum fee on satellite phone service

TRAI has issued a consultation paper to revise the spectrum charges on telecom operator BSNL that offers satellite based phone services.
Satellite phone service growth India
BSNL, a telecom operator owned by India Government, is providing satellite based services of Inmarsat under the service license. BSNL has set up the gateway in Ghaziabad, India, and launched the global satellite phone (GSP) service in May 2017. The license permits BSNL to provide all types of mobile satellite services.

BSNL has the permission for offering voice and non-voice messaging services in the country. India government agencies are the main customers of BSNL’s satellite phone service that is very costly. BSNL has 3,448 satellite phone service customers — 3,245 Government subscribers, 104 PSU subscribers and 99 private subscribers.

BSNL says average usage of a satellite phone user is about 15 minutes of voice calls and 7 SMS in a month. BSNL generated revenue of INR 23.8 million that includes INR 12.4 million from the sale of handsets in the quarter ending June 2018. This means, the service revenue was INR 11.4 million.

BSNL pays license fee of 8 percent of AGR, besides the annual license fee of INR 250 per mobile Inmarsat terminal and INR 500 per fixed Inmarsat terminal and the annual spectrum charges in advance.
Satellite phone subscriber base IndiaBSNL says annual spectrum charges of INR 14,250 per terminal are payable in advance at the time of issue of LOI prior to import and issue of handsets to the users. Actual use of these handsets will take time.

BSNL has received frequency authorization for 8000 ISAT phone terminals after a payment of annual spectrum charges at INR 14,250 per terminal. BSNL has already paid about INR 11.4 crore towards spectrum charges for 8000 ISAT phone terminals for one year and the same charges are to be paid annually in subsequent years also.

BSNL has requested DoT for change in methodology for levying of spectrum charges to AGR based charging since it applied for permission for import of 2000 IsatPhone2 handsets in June 2017.

BSNL says the charging method should be on AGR basis as GSP service of providing Sat Phones is akin to commercial VSAT service. BSNL imported 8,000 satphones but users used only 1,973 terminals. BSNL deposits this fee on an annual basis in advance.

BSNL says the satellite phone service is not affordable due to heavy spectrum charges. Thus, public is not getting benefitted with the service.