Indian operators will be allowed to share spectrum, following a new ruling by the telecom ministry – but the decision only applies to 2G frequencies.
The key decision-making body of the Department of Telecom (DoT) has elected to allow a limited form of spectrum sharing, Economic Timessaid.
But as well as being limited only to 2G spectrum, operators will also not be permitted to share spectrum in circles where they do not hold frequencies themselves.
The decision therefore does not apply in any way to 3G roaming pacts such as the deal reached last year between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to each offer 3G services in regions where they do not hold spectrum of their own.
The DoT has been opposed to the deal, on the grounds it would devalue 3G licenses and give the operators an unfair advantage over rivals.
But the would-be partners have taken the government to court in a bid to have the deal cleared.
Under the DoT's proposed spectrum sharing terms, operators will also be disallowed from sharing spectrum if it would exceed the limits laid out in merger regulations – that no entity can have more than 25% of the spectrum in a region.
Operators would also each have to pay license fees on the total value of spectrum jointly held, as if they each owned the spectrum individually.