Accepting the industry’s demand, the Department of Telecom has amended the unified telecom licence to do away with the clause that operators claimed mandated ‘forced migration’ to the new regime.
The initial unified licence (new regime) mandated operators to migrate all their telecom licences to the new regime on expiry of one in any of their circles, which the industry had dubbed as 'forced migration'.
The amendment has done away with the clause that read: "However, the telecom service provider has to migrate all of its existing licences."
The amended clause now reads: "In order to ensure that the UL (unified licence) regime covers all existing licences, a migration path if offered to the existing licences to migrate to UL regime. Licences of any of the existing telecom services provider shall be eligible to migrate to UL with any number of additional services."
Under the initial version of unified licence, Airtel and Vodafone were the first set of companies which needed to move all their existing permits to new regime by the last quarter of 2014.
Airtel's two licences, Delhi and Kolkata, and Vodafone's three licences, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, are due to expire in the last quarter of 2014.
Post-amendment, the two operators do not need to shift all their existing licences to new regime by last quarter of 2014.
The amended version brings relief to even pureplay internet service providers where most of the players are mid-size and small companies.
The Cellular Operators Association of India in a letter to DoT had said that unified licence guidelines require compulsory migration to the new regime under several circumstances.
"We hope that the way department has taken industry advise for this amendment very positively. Similarly, they will also consider our demand of not imposing any licence fee on pure internet and broadband as this will effect directly to price rise of broadband," Internet Service Providers Association of India's President Rajesh Chharia said.
For migrating to the new regime, an operator is required to pay a one-time non-refundable entry fee of R15 crore for unified telecom licence amended; obtaining new licences to provide all kinds of telecom services.
Besides, operators are required