To improve ease of doing business, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has proposed some new measures.
These include approval to a merged entity within 30 days of a go-ahead from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), giving telcos up to a year to surrender or trade excess airwaves in the case of a merger, permitting trading in all bands which have been put on auction, plus easier penalty norms.
If the department of telecommunications (DoT) agrees, the proposed mergers of Bharti Airtel-Telenor, Vodafone-Idea Cellular, and Bharti Airtel-Tata Teleservice's mobile business would all get approval in a short span. In the past, DoT had taken several months for approving mergers between companies even after an NCLT okay.
For instance, after NCLT approval, the Airtel-Qualcomm merger approval from DoT took six to seven months. That of Reliance Communications and Sistema Shyam Teleservices took around four months. Industry representatives say this delay increases the uncertainty and operational cost.
Trai has recommended that DoT issue a definite timeline, not exceeding 30 days after NCLT approval, for written approval to transfer or merge licences; it should be part of the Merger & Acquisition guidelines.
And, if a merger results in spectrum holding beyond the permissible cap, the entity should get the option to surrender or trade it within a year. Trai has also proposed that spectrum trading be permitted in all bands put to auction, the permissible block size the same as specified in the notice inviting applications for the latest auction.
Trai had issued a position paper on ease of doing business in March this year. It asked stakeholders to review the processes and identify bottlenecks or obstacles that make it difficult to do telecom business in India.
"We are pleased with what Trai has recommended. It will go a long way to improve ease of doing business. We wish the proposals are soon adopted and implemented by DoT," said Rajan S Mathews, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India.
The regulator has also proposed that the entire process of Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation clearance, as well as grant of all licences or approvals, be made paperless and be executed end-to-end through the online portal.
And, a defined timeline not exceeding 30 days within which an import licence is granted.