New Delhi: Concerned over the government’s proposal to ask telecom companies to pay for spectrum above 4.4Mhz, and not the contractual 6.2Mhz, eight of the 14 telecom service providers in India have written to communications minister Kapil Sibal, saying such a move would not be legally tenable.
Mobile phone operators get 4.4Mhz spectrum to start operations. That is increased to 6.2Mhz based on the number of subscribers on the network, for no additional charge, according to the licence agreement.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal. File photo
Representatives of the operators, includingReliance Telecom Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd have asked the government to reconsider the proposal as it would be against the terms and conditions of the licences.
“The valid legal contract cannot be unilaterally changed by one party, especially when the proposal has huge financial implications to the other party. The principle of natural justice requires consultation with the party who is going to be financially adversely impacted by the unilateral change in the licence provisions,” said the letter, reviewed by Mint.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) have always maintained that 6.2Mhz is considered the contractual minimum spectrum and optimal quantity of spectrum for a pan-India GSM operator to roll out services.
On a number of occasions, Trai, DoT and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal have said 6.2Mhz is the contracted amount of spectrum and all spectrum allowed above that should be charged. Operators such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and state-run operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd have as much as 10Mhz in some circles.