India's Trai revisits excess spectrum fee plan

Dylan Bushell-Embling
19 Jan 2011
00:00

Indian regulator Trai plans to repeat its controversial 2010 proposal to charge operators for excess 2G spectrum that they have already been allocated.

Trai chairman JS Sharma told the Economic Times that the body will in the next few days recommend that the government implement a spectrum charge for excess holdings beyond India's 6.2MHz standard allocation.

The regulator will appraise the government of the results of a study into the suggested price of spectrum allocated in the future, and these recommendations will also apply to excess allocations.

Operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular, Loop, RCom and state-owned BSNL and MTNL could all be affected by the extra charge.

Trai intends to stick by its recommendations that spectrum in the 900MHz band be priced 50% higher than 1800MHz frequencies.

The regulator first brought up the excess fee last year, proposing to set the price at the 3G auction rates. But it was forced to agree to re-examine the issue after meeting stiff opposition from the industry.

At the time, Trai estimated that Bharti, BSNL, Vodafone and MTNL would between them have to pay around 120.5 billion rupees ($2.65 billion) based on these rates.

Sharma also revealed that Trai plans to publish a consultation paper on 4G by mid-2011. He said that he expects 4G to hit India next year - even though operators have only now started to roll out 3G services.

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