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Telecom Commission Allows 4G Players To Offer Voice Services: Report

India’s Telecom Commission has approved a recommendation which allows the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum holders to offer voice calls services on their network by paying an additional fee of Rs 1,658 crore each, reports PTI (via The Economic Times). Note that we weren’t able to find any related note on the DoT website at the time of writing this article.

While the recommendation has been approved by the telecom commission, a formal approval is necessary by the Department of Telecom (DoT). Frankly however, this development was expected considering the recently introduced telecom policy which is expected to be implemented in 2013, allows operators to offer voice services through 4G or BWA, whenever an appropriate regulatory framework for progressive liberalization of spectrum utilization is established in the country. Telecom secretary R Chandrashekhar stated that if this recommendation gets an approval from DoT, a framework for the new licenses would be implemented by the end of this financial year, as indicated by the report.

Besides this, the report also stated that the telecom commission has deferred its decision on a single entity providing both telecom and television services like mobile calling services, DTH, cable TV that could charge customers for all these services through a single bill.

Implications

One of the biggest gainers from this development will be Reliance Industries (RIL), since it will allow them to bundle voice service along with data services when it starts its 4G service rollout in the country later this year.

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In December 2012, reports suggested that RIL was all set to get DoT’s nod to test voice services on its 4G networks. The department had also reportedly recommended that RIL-owned Infotel Broadband be allowed to connect its network to other operators as part of testing the service, and allow 10,000 test numbers to make and receive calls from other consumers. Remember that Infotel Broadband is currently the only firm in the country with pan-India BWA spectrum.

RIL had also inked a deal with Moscow-based Spirit DSP to license Spirit’s TeamSpirit Video and Voice engine to RIL subsidiary Infotel, so as to provide Skype-like video and voice calling services (VVoIP) to its subscribers over its soon to be launched LTE network and Infotel had reportedly informed the government, that it had natively developed a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) platform and these trials will help the company improve its platform.

Other BWA Players like Bharti Airtel, Aircel and Tikona Digital are also expected to be benefited from this move, since it will allow them to bundle voice service along with data services

BWA Developments:

In November 2012, state run telecom service provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) was said to be looking to surrender its broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum to get a refund of Rs 4,533.97 crore. In October 2011, State owned BSNL was also reportedly looking to surrender its BWA(Broadband Wireless Access) spectrum in 17 circles to get a refund of Rs 8,313.80 crore and had apparently got the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)’s approval in December 2011.

Augere Wireless which had secured 20Mhz of spectrum in the state of Madhya Pradesh and had plans to roll out commercial LTE services under its under its ZOOSH brand, across 14 cities in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, was also looking to sell its 4G spectrum and exit from the Indian market in May 2012. The company had then stated that it was unable to raise fresh funding from domestic and international investors due to regulatory uncertainty over the telecom sector. Earlier this month, an ET Now report had suggested that Airtel was in advanced talks to acquire Augere Wireless in a bid to secure additional 4G spectrum.

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In May 2012, Bharti Airtel had also inked an agreement with Qualcomm, to acquire 49% stake in Qualcomm’s India entities that hold BWA/4G licenses in Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala for an initial investment of approximately $165 million (Rs 909.56 crore approx). The Competition Commission (CCI) had approved the merger in September 2012 and Bharti was expected to assume complete ownership and financial responsibility for the BWA entities by the end of 2014.

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