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TRAI floats consultation paper asking ‘how to ease telecom business in India?’

In order to “ease” opening of a telecom business in India, telecom regulator TRAI is inviting comments from telcos, service providers and stakeholders asking how the existing regulations could be tweaked. The regulator is looking at simplifying or even tweaking existing license conditions, spectrum sharing/trading guidelines, policies regarding mergers and acquisitions, among others.

TRAI said that current processes that a telecom company goes through before and after applying for a license “should be simplified.” “…it is important to identify the bottlenecks, obstacles or hindrances that are making it difficult to do telecom business in India and thus, require regulatory intervention,” the regulator added.

The consultation also comes at a time when India’s telecom industry is going through a competitive phase. With the entry of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio, a 4G only operator in 22 circles, small players like Telenor are either looking to merge with rivals or phase out operations completely. Apart from this, the third largest operator Idea Cellular was reportedly in talks with Vodafone for a potential merger deal.

Regulations that the TRAI is looking at

TRAI is looking at tweaking regulations regarding the Unified License regime, Spectrum allotment, clearances required for using satellite media, among others. Stakeholders can forward comments to advmn@trai.gov.in by 11th April 2017.

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Related to Unified Licence: Any firm/company looking to offer telecom services in India will first need to acquire a UL/UASL/MVNO license to operate. Once the telco acquires a license, the company is subject to “roll out obligations” and other compliances to make sure that spectrum assigned to it is not wasted. TRAI is looking at tweaking some of these policies including:
– Acquiring Unified Licence,
– Compliance of various general / commercial / technical / financial / operating / commercial conditions,
– Adding new authorisations in the UL
-Surrendering any authorisation within the scope of UL or surrender of UL.
– Compliance with roll-out obligations
– Payment of Licence Fee, and bank guarantee requirements

Spectrum Allotment and use: Once a telecom company wins spectrum through auctions, it is required to go through some clearances to make sure that the company has enough hardware and technical resources for optimal deployment. Apart from this, telcos are also required to procure clearances from several authorities when they decide to share or trade spectrum with other service providers. TRAI is looking at tweaking the following regulations related to spectrum allotment and management:
– Assignment of spectrum to the successful bidder by Wireless Planning Commission.
-SACFA Clearance Process (SAFCA is a branch of DoT looking at managing and formulating frequency allocation)
– Spectrum Trading approval process such as settlement of dues etc.
– Spectrum Sharing process
– Liberalisation of spectrum process

Provision of telecom services using Satellite media: At times telecom companies require satellite based signals for operating their services. The TRAI is looking at simplifying steps, clearances required for such services:
– Clearances from the Network Operations Control Center of INSAT (India’s satellite system)
– obtaining SACFA clearance and clearance from other authorities

Policies and guidelines regarding mergers and acquisitions: The regulator is also looking at simplifying guidelines related to mergers and acquisitions. Currently, telcos are subjected to obtain clearances from market regulators like SEBI, industry regulator DoT and court approvals in some cases.

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