COAI urges Indian telecom ministry to ensure uniform spectrum usage charge regime

Telecom Lead India: GSM operators’ industry body
COAI has urged the Indian telecom ministry and Cabinet to ensure uniform
spectrum usage charge regime.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in its
proposal to the Union Cabinet, has recommended the continuation of slab-wise
spectrum usage charge regime.

Recently, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on
spectrum auction has suggested two options to the Union Cabinet on the same
subject one is the continuation of the slab-wise spectrum usage charge and
the second and more rational option being the implementation of uniform
spectrum usage charge.

The GSM Industry, which is a victim of a discriminatory
spectrum usage regime based on slab based charges, has been raising this issue
with the DoT and urging it to ensure a level playing field with the dual
spectrum operators, who pay separate spectrum charges for 800 MHz and 1800 MHz
and enjoy lower fee.

COAI supports the TRAI Recommendation dated
23rd April 2012 that the Spectrum Usage Charge be set at a uniform fixed
rate of 1 percent, which was to cover, principally, administrative costs. 
While EGoM may have recommended a higher fixed fee of 5 percent; we agree that
a fixed fee approach, closer to the TRAI recommendations, is the more
logical one.

This is despite the TRAI recommendations in 2007, when
the dual spectrum licences were allowed, that these operators pay spectrum
usage charge on the combined spectrum of all bands namely 800, 900 and 1800MHz.

COAI said the DoT has also departed from its own 2004
M&A guidelines which specifically stated that after the merger of CDMA and
GSM licenses, the combined entity will pay the spectrum usage charge based on
the combined AGR from GSM and CDMA spectrum. However, dual spectrum operators
continue to benefit through lower spectrum charges by paying separate charges
on CDMA and GSM spectrum, causing significant losses to the exchequer.

COAI said that this ongoing discrimination has resulted
into a loss of more than INR 1,200 crore to the national exchequer till date.
If not corrected, the nation stands to lose another INR 5,300 crore over the
next 10 years.

 COAI hopes the Cabinet will arrive at a decision
that is fair and ensures a level playing field within the industry. 

COAI has urged the Government to introduce nominal
uniform spectrum usage charge applicable to all spectrum bands namely 800, 900
and 1800 MHz. It is also recommended that should the Government decide to
extend the slab-wise spectrum usage charge regime, it must ensure that the dual
spectrum operators pay spectrum charge on their total spectrum holding and not
on separate spectrum bands.

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