GSM cellcos to be required to hand back excess spectrum on renewing licences?

8 Mar 2011

India’s GSM operators holding more than 6.2MHz of spectrum will be required to hand back any excess frequencies when their mobile licences come up for renewal at the start of 2014. According to the Economic Times, cellcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular will only be allocated 6.2MHz at the time of the concessions renewal, while the report also claims that an internal note from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) indicated that operators will also be required to market rates for the frequencies. ‘On renewal, spectrum is to be assigned maximum up to the prescribed limit. Value of spectrum to be paid separately,’ the notice, which has reportedly been sent to all of the country’s operators, said.

Despite claims by operators that they do not hold excess spectrum – with a number arguing that their licences entitle them to 15 units of 2G airwaves in every region, and that there is no capping of airwaves at the 6.2 MHz limit – the government has not yet decided on methodology to calculate the market value of spectrum. However, the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently proposed that every MHz of 2G spectrum up to the 6.2MHz limit should be priced at INR17.69 billion (USD391 million) for the duration of any licence that is renewed.