India’s Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has approved a proposal to charge incumbent cellcos a single one-off fee for excess spectrum holdings. Business Line reports that GSM operators with more than 4.4MHz and CDMA providers holding more than 2.5MHz of frequencies per circle will be required to pay a fee for the additional spectrum, based on a price to be determined by the upcoming 2G auction and the remaining period of their existing concessions. Other options considered by the EGoM included charging the operators retrospectively for excess spectrum. The EGoM’s decision is due to be ratified by the cabinet on 16 October.
State backed telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) are likely to be the hardest hit by the fee as the two jointly hold 210.6MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands across India’s 22 operating areas. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India will also receive hefty bills: Bharti holds 160.2MHz of 2G frequencies nationwide, with spectrum holdings of more than 4.4MHz in all circles except the Tamil Nadu and Chennai area, whilst Vodafone currently uses 142.4MHz of spectrum, though unlike Bharti its additional holdings are concentrated in the ‘Metro’, ‘Region A’ and ‘Region B’ service areas.