cell tower

The Wireless Planning & Coordination (WPC) Wing of the Ministry of Communications has laid out new guidelines (pdf) for liberalization of spectrum in 800MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands. The guidelines pertain to spectrum held since 2012 and will allow the telecom operators to provide any technology over the spectrum instead of 2G services. Ideally, telcos should offer 4G services over it.

TSPs with 2G spectrum: Most TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) own spectrum in the 1800MHz frequency bands, acquired during the 2G auctions last year. This includes Airtel, Idea, Jio, Uninor, RCOM, Aircel and Vodafone. On the other hand, Sistema Shyam, which operates its telecom services in India as MTS India, was the only applicant in the 800 MHz band during the auctions held in March 2013. Earlier this month, MTS merged with RCOM. Interestingly, this Business Standard report mentions that RCom has already applied to the DoT for liberalizing its 800MHz spectrum.

Guidelines include:

– Existing spectrum holders can liberalize their entire spectrum, allotted prior to auction of right to use spectrum in Nov 2012, in 800MHz and 1800MHz bands for the rest of the validity period.

– Liberalization of spectrum will be considered only after a written request for the same, accompanied by a non-refundable processing fee of Rs 50,000/- per service area.

– After payment of the price prorated for the rest of the validity period, the spectrum will be required to be liberalized. This amount will be deducted from the total amount paid by the TSP for liberalizing the spectrum.

– The fee will be determined based on the latest auctions held for the respective frequency band. If the auctions are over a year old, then prevailing market rates will be determined based on the last auction price.

– In case the spectrum is liberalized, payment of OTSC by TSPs will be charged up to the date of calculation of charges for liberalizing the spectrum. However if the OTSC is yet to be paid due to pending judicial intervention, a bank guarantee equal to the amount will have to be submitted pending the outcome of the court case.

– After liberalizing the spectrum TSPs can combine it with acquired spectrum in the same band through trading or auctions. Finally, the guidelines will not be applicable for liberalization of frequency band in services areas where auction determined prices are not available for the given band.

Spectrum trading guidelines: Earlier this year, the DoT laid out guidelines for spectrum trading that were approved in September. The proposal for these guidelines was based on TRAI’s recommendations outlining issues relating to spectrum cap and maximum spectrum holding by telecom service providers.