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Ministerial panel to discuss one-time charge for existing operators

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The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on telecom, headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, will meet tomorrow to decide on a one-time spectrum charge to be levied on the existing operators.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has proposed to charge for spectrum held by operators other than those whose licences were cancelled. wants existing telecom operators to pay a one-time auction-determined price for the spectrum they currently hold, to create a level field between the new entrants and the incumbents.

is expected to discuss the issue of one-time spectrum fee along with final recommendations on a minimum price for airwaves that are to be auctioned, according to sources.

The on July 3 had referred the matter of one- time spectrum fee to the EGoM to get its view.

Earlier, DoT had made four proposals to the Cabinet—levy one-time fee on all airwaves held by existing telecom companies; impose a fee on airwaves held beyond the start-up spectrum of 4.4 MHz; levy a fee on airwaves held beyond the contracted spectrum of 6.2 MHz, or levy no fee at all.

The Supreme Court on February 2 cancelled 122 telecom licences belonging to eight service providers --all permits of Uninor, Loop Telecom, Etisalat DB, Videocon, STel, 21 licences of Sistema Shyam, nine of Idea Cellular and three licences of Tata Teleservices.

In its last meeting on July 20, EGoM decided to recommend the issue of minimum price of airwaves, spectrum usage charge (an annual fee) and staggered payment option to the Cabinet for a final decision.

EGoM had recommended a base price for airwaves in the range of Rs 14,000 to Rs 16,000 crore for 5 MHz spectrum required by a new company for pan-India business.

EGoM also recommended continuing with the existing spectrum usage charge, ranging between three per cent and six per cent.

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