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Telecom commission approves relaxation of spectrum holding caps

Spectrum

The Telecom Commission approved the relaxation of spectrum holding caps for mobile companies on Tuesday. This is expected to give a boost to mergers and acquisitions and spectrum sales, as carriers try to sell airwaves to repay debt. The commission, headed by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, endorsed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) proposal to drop the 50% cap on intra-band spectrum holdings of telecom providers. Instead, the TC agreed to impose a separate 50% cap on the combined spectrum holdings in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands. The commission also extended the payments tenure for auctioned airwaves from 12 years to 16 years and lowered the interest rate on penalties on outstanding dues of telcos from 14% to 12%. The commission also backed TRAI's suggestion to increase the overall airwaves holding limit to 35% from 25%. The changes in spectrum holding caps as well as in the payments tenure will have to be approved by the cabinet. Current government rules bar any merged entity from holding more than 25% of the spectrum allocated to a service area or circle, and over 50% in a particular band. Jio and Vodafone stand to benefit According to an Economic Times report, Reliance Jio, stands to benefit the most as it will be able to grab more airwaves in the 4G-ready 850 MHz band. Jio holds the most amount of airwaves in the 850 MHz band across all 22 circles, the increased caps will give it the leeway to…

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