Telecom Commission approves spectrum holding limits

Telecom Commission approves spectrum holding limits

The highest decision-making body in the communications ministry, the Telecom Commission (TC), on Tuesday approved the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) suggestions to relax spectrum holding limits by removing the 50% cap on intra-band spectrum holdings of telecom operators post mergers and acquisitions.

According to current rules, no mobile service provider can hold more than 25% spectrum in a circle and more than 50% in a frequency band.

Trai had recommended last month that the ceiling on spectrum held by mobile operators within a particular band should be removed.

Rajan S. Mathews, DG, COAI welcomed the decision as "it will facilitate mergers and acquisitions in the sector".

TRAI earlier said that a number of stakeholders were in favor of altogether removal of intraband spectrum cap.

The TC had earlier approved the IMG recommendations on the spectrum payment tenure and the interest rate shift. Rather, an organic increase by means of orderly release of additional spectrum leads to increase in thresholds of spectrum caps, the telecom regulator further said. It will also benefit Reliance Jio to mop up more airwaves in the 850 MHz band from Reliance Communication.

After the completion of their merger, the combined Vodafone-Idea entity would be able to retain all the airwaves owned individually by the two companies. RCom shares climbed 4% to a high of Rs 34.05 and Bharti Airtel rose 1.5% to a high of Rs 517.45 on the BSE.

Others, including Vodafone and Idea Cellular, had supported removing the concept of capping because spectrum was bought through auctions, and operators could deploy any technology on a spectrum band.

The commission also approved increasing the budget for the Network for Spectrum (NFS) project. The Category B licence will be limited to wireline services. Further, a proposal to provide satellite connectivity to 5,298 gram panchayats, of which about 4,240 Global Positioning System are in North East and about 800 Global Positioning System are in Jammu and Kashmir, at a cost of ₹916 crore for three years had also been approved.

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