Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published a consultation paper on the applications of spectrum usage charges (SUCs) with regards to spectrum sharing. Under the current rules operators are permitted to share spectrum provided that they both hold frequencies in that band, with an incremental SUC of 0.5% of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) applied to that spectrum band and circle. The TRAI notes that, as it is not possible to monitor the quantum of spectrum being shared at each site and segregate the AGR on a site by site basis, the licensees are assumed to be sharing the entirety of their spectrum in the specific band and circle. In early 2020, however, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) received requests that the additional SUC should only be charged for the spectrum bands that are being shared, rather than the operators’ entire spectrum holdings (i.e. including frequencies that they had not been permitted to share), indicating that the fee was being applied to cellcos incorrectly in some places. Consequently, the DoT has requested that the TRAI recommend whether the SUC should be applied to the specific band being share or to the Weighted Average Rate for SUC – which has been derived from all bands – or an alternative, that the TRAI deems fit for purpose.
To that end the TRAI has requested stakeholders submit their views regarding the methodology for the application of the charge. Further, the regulator has sought comments on the potential for the fee to act as a deterrent to spectrum sharing, and what measures could be introduced to promote sharing.