The Telecom Commission (TC) on Tuesday will take up the proposal to relax the cap on spectrum holding by telcos. If approved, the relaxation will not only remove a hurdle to the Vodafone-Idea merger, but also enable Reliance Jio to acquire Reliance Communication’s spectrum in 800 MHz band. TC, which is the highest decision-making body in the telecom ministry, will take up some proposals relating to Trai recommendations on spectrum cap, rollout of Wi-Fi hotspots under the Bharat Net project and increasing connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar Islands via submarine cables, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said. Current regulations mandate that no operator can have more than 25% of the total spectrum allocated in a circle and 50% in a given band, but the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended for a relaxation in the norms.
Trai recommended removal of the intra-band cap of 50% on spectrum holding by operators in a circle adding that the government should now ensure that an operator does hold more than 50% of all the sub-1GHz band like 700, 800, and 900 MHz put together. It also said that operators should now be allowed to hold 35% of the total spectrum assigned in a circle against the current cap of 25%. The government-appointed inter ministerial group (IMG) had discussed the issue of relaxation in spectrum caps, which was then sent to the department of telecom (DoT). The department then asked the Trai for its recommendation, which came out in November last year.
Most operators pitched for a relaxation in the caps. While Bharti Airtel was not in favour of relaxing the intra-band cap of 50% on the ground that it would lead to one operator monopolising spectrum in a given band, it had batted for relaxation in the overall limit.
Both the measures once accepted by the DoT will enable operators to create a better LTE capable 4G networks as they can optimise their spectrum holdings in a much more efficient manner.