Indian cellcos stall spectrum fee plan

Dylan Bushell-Embling
07 Feb 2013

Indian operators are managing to stall attempts by the government to charge a one-time fee for spectrum they already hold.

Reliance Communications is the latest operator to have been granted a stay order on collection of its fee by the courts system, Economic Timesreported.

The Calcutta High Court has told the department of telecom (DoT) not to take any action to force the operator to pay the 1.7 billion rupees ($32.6 million) it would owe under the one-time spectrum fee plan, at least until February 28.

Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India and Aircel have each also managed to stall the government's imposition of the fee, either through the courts system or through telecom tribunal TDSAT, while their own cases are heard.

The charge was supposed to come into effect from the start of the year, with operators having the option to pay in a lump sum or in equal instalments. The total amount that would be collected under the plan is estimated at over 50 billion rupees.

The one-time fee, which was approved by cabinet in November, requires GSM operators to pay an auction-determined price to keep any “excess” spectrum holdings they have beyond the 4.4 MHz they were initially allocated – or surrender the additional spectrum.

Under a second component of the fee, incumbent operators such as Bharti, Vodafone, Idea and Aircel would be charged for any spectrum they hold beyond 6.2 MHz.

This component means incumbent operators have the greatest incentive to try to quash the initiative in the courts.

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