EGoM decision on spectrum fees, merger norms today

The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on telecom, headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, will take a call on Monday on the vexed issues of spectrum fee and norms for merger and acquisition ahead of auction of radiowaves planned from February 3.

Officials said a final decision on issues, including merger and acquisition, is expected in the meeting. Guidelines for mergers and acquisitions are almost ready but were not released pending a legal opinion.

The Department of Telecom has extended the last date to withdraw applications for the upcoming spectrum auction by a day to January 28.

The inter-ministerial Telecom Commission on Saturday recommended three options for levying annual spectrum usage charge (SUC) on telecom operators. The options are 3 per cent with weighted average, 5 per cent with weighted average and continuing with the current charges.

The government expects to raise at least Rs 11,300 crore from the February 3 auction. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended a uniform 3-5 per cent fee from April 1 across telecom services.

GSM firms such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have locked horns with the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm following the Trai’s recommendation of a uniform SUC. SUC is levied annually as a percentage of revenue earned by telecom companies, and currently ranges from 3 to 8 per cent for mobile operators.

while for firms with Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum such as Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Tikona, the fee is 1 per cent.

On Friday, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had said the “complex” issue of SUC would be cleared in the EGoM's meeting on Monday.

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