TDSAT reserves order on spectrum fee hike

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New Delhi: The telecom tribunal TDSAT has reserved its order on a plea by GSM operators against the recent hike in the spectrum usage charges by Department of Telecom (DoT).

A Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) bench, headed chairman Justice S B Sinha, reserved its verdict after hearing the private telecom operators and the DoT.

In March, the tribunal had stayed the proposed hike by the DoT over a plea by GSM operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular, who termed the hike as "arbitrary and without any reason" and informed the tribunal that they would increase call charges in accordance with the rise in their operational cost.

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Sighvi, appearing for the GSM operators, submitted that DoT is adopting contradictory stance. He pointed out that on one hand, DoT says it is waiting for Trai recommendations as it is not in a position to take a decision on spectrum allocation, but on February 25, it had gone ahead and increased spectrum charges without waiting for Trai recommendations.

On February 25, 2010, DoT had increased spectrum usage charge in all circles under which operators were asked to pay a higher percentage of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to DoT as spectrum usage charges and on the basis of their spectrum allocation. The new charges vary between 3 and 8 percent depending on the quantum of airwaves held by an operator.

As per the new charge, an operator holding spectrum up to 4.4 Mhz will be paying 3 percent of the AGR compared to 2 percent now. Most of the incumbent players other than those who got licences in January 2008 are having more that 4.4 MHz of radio waves.

Similarly, CDMA players with spectrum up to 5 Mhz will now have to pay 3 percent of their AGR as spectrum charges instead of the 2 percent they pay now.
Source: PTI
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