‘DoT looking at spectrum pricing, payment method overhaul’

Anshu Prakash. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash on Wednesday said all aspects of spectrum reforms are being looked at, including spectrum payment instalments, rate of interest, and spectrum holding caps after the industry requested the government for a consideration.

With the lukewarm response of the industry towards the upcoing spectrum auction over pricing, interest rate and payment installments issues, the Department of Telecom is looking at some reforms on this front.

“We are looking at all aspects such as number of spectrum payment instalments, rate of interest, spectrum holding caps… What we have received from (sector regulator) Trai is pricing, there are other parameters which we have to examine, ultimately it has to go for government approval,” Anshu Prakash said at the concluding day of the India Mobile Congress.

“Whatever is decided will be done keeping in mind the realities and what is the situation in terms of number of players, competition, requirement of expansion of network and revenue considerations,” he added.

The Cellular Operators Association of India, Prakash said, has asked for a moratorium for two years on spectrum payments and more installments, which the department was examining.

Telecom operators told DoT that airwaves in India are priced exorbitantly. Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal in February said the telecom company would not buy any spectrum at the base prices suggested by the telecom regulator in the 3,300-3,600 MHz band, the first band identified for 5G in the country. On Tuesday, Reliance Jio Network President Mathew Oomen too said the auction should be affordable.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday had said ‘reforms on spectrum pricing’ may be on anvil.

The government had increased the tenure of installments to be paid for spectrum bought in auctions to 16 years from 10 years in 2017. It had also lowered the rate of interest on delayed payment penalties.

All these reforms of DoT have to be discussed with the Finance Ministry.

Earlier DoT had sent a Rs 50,000 crore proposal for revival of BSNL and MTNL which has not met any success so far as the Finance Ministry’s approval is concerned, though it was cleared by a GoM headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.

Hit hard by competition and high debt, the adjusted gross revenue of telcos is now Rs 1.39 lakh crore in FY19. On losses, the sector has consolidated to 3 players and now Airtel and Vodafone Idea have a combined loss of Rs 2.3 lakh crore approximately.

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