DoT to seek Trai views for licences expiring in 2015-16

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will seek recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on reserve price of spectrum in circles where licences in 900MHz and 1800MHz bands would expire in 2015 and 2016.

The DoT, in a recent communication, noted that the Government needs to conduct auctions atleast 18 months in advance of expiry of the licences.

According to the DoT data, 29 licences in 900MHz band and 15 licences in 1800MHz band across the country will be due for renewal in 2015 and 2016. Operators whose licences are coming up for renewal in 2015-16 together hold 182.4MHz of spectrum in 900MHz band and 27.8MHz of spectrum in 1800MHz band.

In the 900MHz band, operators currently have 6.2MHz to 7.8MHz spectrum, baring three licencees with 4.4MHz in three circles. Operators whose licences will come up for renewal next year will have to acquire fresh spectrum from the upcoming auction in order to continue operations in their existing operating circles.

In the last auction in February, the final price of 900MHz spectrum in Delhi was Rs 741 crore as against the reserve price of Rs 360 crore for 1MHz of airwave, which was higher than the 3G spectrum price. Prices of 900MHz spectrum in Mumbai and Kolkata also touched the 3G spectrum prices.

Last time, the DoT and the Telecom Commission did not agree on the reserve price that the regulator had recommended. But it had taken the valuation of spectrum by Trai as a parameter to determine the reserve price.

Four licences of Bharti Airtel in 900MHz band in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka circles are coming up for renewal while in 1800MHz band its licences in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will expire in 2015-16. Four licences of Bharti Hexacom (two each in 900MHz and 1800MHz band) will also be due for renewal in North east and Rajasthan.

Idea Cellular will have to renew seven licences in 900MHz band and five in 1800MHz band. Key circles like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Seven licences of Reliance Telecom, which is now Reliance Communications (RCom), in the 900MHz band and three in the 1800MHz band will expire in 2015-16.

Vodafone's seven licences in the 900MHz band and three in the 1800MHz band will also come up for renewal in 2015-16. Two licences of Spice Communications, which has licences in Karnataka and Punjab, will also expire next year.

In February, the DoT has auctioned 900MHz spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata as licences of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone were coming up for renewal in November 2014. According to the DoT communication, auction of spectrum at least 18 months prior to the date of expiry of the licences would enable winning bidders to be ready with deployment plans on time.

Meanwhile, cellular operators like Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have already picked up some spectrum in the 1800MHz band in the February auction in the circles where their licenes would expire in 2015-16.
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