The Telecom Commission is likely to discuss the relief package recommended by an inter- ministerial group for the sector in its meeting scheduled for December 21, a senior official said. The panel, the apex decision making body of the Telecom Department, may also discuss opening of new set of spectrum – E-band (71-76 Gigahertz frequency and 81-86 Ghz) and V- band (57-64 Ghz frequency range) for telecom services, the official said. “The IMG recommendations will be placed before the Telecom Commission again along with legal opinion and TRAI’s recommendations on the spectrum cap on December 21,” a DoT official, who did not wished to be named, told PTI. The IMG recommendations would be sent to the Cabinet for a final decision. The Telecom Commission in its September meeting had in- principle approved extension of the time period for the payment of spectrum bought in auctions by telcos to 16 years from the current 10 years, as recommended by the inter- ministerial group (IMG). The commission also approved recommendation of the IMG, which was tasked with finding solutions for the financial difficulties of the telecom sector, to lower the interest rate charged over penalties imposed on service providers with slight modifications. The commission had sought a legal opinion on some of the points it approved at its previous meeting in September-end before firming up its view. The panel had also sought views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on IMG’s proposal to relax spectrum cap as it will provide exit path to loss-making mobile service providers and ease consolidation in the sector.
Trai last month recommended that the ceiling on spectrum held by mobile operators within a particular band should be removed, while suggesting a 50 per cent cap on combined radiowave holding in efficient bands like 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz. If these suggestions are accepted by the telecom department, they would provide a major relief for the soon-to -be-merged Idea Cellular and Vodafone, as they would have breached the spectrum caps in certain locations under the existing rules. It would also enable aggressive newcomer Reliance Jio to pick up additional spectrum, if needed, in bands like 800 MHz.
Trai has also suggested that the overall cap on holding spectrum should be raised from the current 25 per cent to 35 per cent. The official added that some IMG recommendations like reduction in various levies on the telecom sector are being considered under the new National Telecom Policy.