Centre to refund loser telecom companies

Centre to refund loser telecom companies

EGoM for one-time fee on spectrum beyond 4.4 MHz

A high level ministerial panel on Monday decided to refund spectrum licence fee of telecom companies whose licences were cancelled  by the Supreme Court in February last but have no criminal charge against them.

The Empowered Group of Ministers, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, also decided to recommend to the Cabinet a one-time fee on existing telecom operators for spectrum they hold beyond 4.4 MHz.The apex court had cancelled 122 licences granted during former Telecom Minister A Raja’s regime.Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said that the decision of the EGOM would be placed before the Cabinet for approval. 

According to the decision of the panel, operators unwilling to pay the additional fee would be allowed to relinquish the excess spectrum beyond 4.4 MHz. Rejecting Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s suggestion that a one-time fee should be levied retrospectively from July 2008, the panel suggested imposing one-time fee from the day the Cabinet decided the matter.

Companies willing to retain excess spectrum will have the option of making staggered payments in yearly instalments, sources said. The government is expected to raise about Rs 27,000 crore from the one-time fee.

"If there is no case or action against telecom companies (obtaining licence in 2008), then the amount (licence fee of Rs 1,658 crore) will be refunded," an official said.He said the government will adjust the refundable fee against the final price of spectrum that these companies would have to pay at the end of the November auction of airwaves.

The Government has allowed telecom companies affected by the apex court judgement to participate in the auction if interested in continuing their business.

The sources added additional spectrum will be allocated against payment of a price determined through auction.