Airtel, Vodafone face huge one-time spectrum fee

A high-level ministerial panel on Thursday recommended the imposition of a one-time fee on mobile operators holding spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz, in the hope to earn around Rs 10,000 crore to the exchequer.

The panel suggested that firms like Airtel and Vodafone holding airwaves in excess of 6.2 Mega hertz, should be asked to pay a one-time fee for four years beginning 2008, sources in the Telecom department said.

This will be in excess of the Rs 27,000 crore surcharge that the EGoM had decided last week to impose on GSM carriers having spectrum in excess of 4.4 MHz and CDMA operators with 2.5 MHz airwaves.

Sources said the surcharge on operators with more than 6.2 MHz would have to be paid as per 2001-indexed price (Rs 1,658 crore) for four years beginning 2008 which is likely to fetch Rs 10,000 crore. However, the final decision would be taken by the Cabinet.

The government has taken this decision to provide a level playing field to the firms, who would be bidding in the auction of spectrum starting next month.

However the panel has decided to defer the decision on the contentious issue of spectrum reframing. The government would take the decision prior to start of auction (of spectrum vacated from cancellation of 2G licences by the Supreme Court), which is scheduled in the second week of next month, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters.

The Telecom Commission, headed by Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekar, had recommended earlier that the mobile phone companies give up their spectrum holdings in more efficient 900 MHz band when their permits would come up for renewal starting November 2014.

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