DoT approaches TRAI for next round of spectrum auction

New Delhi: The department of telecom (DoT) has approached regulator Trai, seeking its recommendations on auction of airwaves held by 29 licensees across 18 out of 22 service areas that are expiring in 2015-16.

"Reference to Trai for its recommendation on auction of 900 and 1800 Mhz spectrum had been sent on Thursday. The auction is proposed for about 29 licences," a DoT official said.

The Telecom Commission in its meeting on May 24-26, 2012 had accepted Trai's recommendation to conduct spectrum auction at least 18 months prior to expiry of licences.

In the 2014-15, government expects revenue of Rs 38,954 crore from communication services, which include receipts from spectrum sale, licence fees and one-time spectrum charges, according to the interim budget presented by finance minister P Chidambaram in February.

In December, 2015, four licences of Bharti Airtel, seven each of Idea Cellular and Reliance Telecom and six of Vodafone will complete their 20-year term and would require renewal. While the companies can renew their licences by paying a fixed fee, but for continuing mobile and other wireless services they will need to buy spectrum afresh through auction at market determined rate. By April 2016, two more permits of Bharti and Idea will come up for renewal.

The 29 licences together hold about 198 megahertz of spectrum. Most of these licences have spectrum in the premium 900 Mhz band for which telcos have paid about two times more than the base price fixed by government in the recent auction. They hold about 172 Mhz in 900 Mhz, and 26 Mhz in 1800 Mhz band.

As per the process, government will take the final decision after considering recommendations of Trai. Besides auction of 900 and 1800 Mhz band, government is also working on auction of CDMA spectrum for which Trai has already given its recommendations. The 10-day long auction held in February this year gave the government over Rs 61,162 crore, far exceeding the target. Eight telecom firms had bid for 900 Mhz and 1800 Mhz bands. In the total tally, bids worth Rs 23,590 crore were received for 900 Mhz spectrum in just three service areas — Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The 1800 Mhz band auction fetched bids worth Rs 37,572.60 crore.
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