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Relief call for telecom

10 March 2018

These are just some of the measures created to improve the health of an industry laden with debt amid intense competition.

If Reliance Jio were to buy all of RCom's spectrum in the 800MHz band under the previous spectrum-holding norms, it would have breached caps in 11 telecom circles.

"The telecom operators will now be able to trade in excess (subject to the prescribed time limit) as well as the current spectrum held by them with other telecom operators depending upon their current spectrum holdings".

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"The increased instalment is based upon the principle that the Net Present Value (NPV) of the payment due is protected as per respective notice inviting application for auction of spectrum from 2012", it said. "The total amount received will be higher by ₹74,446.01 crore till 2034-35", the statement said.

The cabinet approved the recommendations of an inter-ministerial group set up to look at the "stressed assets" in the telecom sector.

Similarly, Bharti Airtel, which is acquiring Norwegian firm Telenor's India business, while also merging Tata Teleservices' consumer mobile business, will also stand to gain from the move. New kid on the block Reliance Jio Infocomm, on the other hand, had said there was no need for any relief package at all.

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According to the U.S. brokerage, scrapping of the earlier 50% limit put on telcos on holding airwaves within each band, post-mergers, will also enable Reliance Jio to target Reliance Communications' unsold, liberalised spectrum in the 800 Mhz band, considered among the best for 4G services.

The cabinet also chose to do away with the cap for individual or combined spectrum holding in bands above 1GHz.

The relaxed norms also include the ones for spectrum holding limit as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Telecom Commission. The limits will be reviewed following the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019, when additional bands are expected to be agreed for mobile services.

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The Cabinet on Wednesday relaxed spectrum holding limits and allowed telcos more time to pay for airwaves won in auction as part of measures to improve the health of an industry laden with debt amid intense competition. Instead, it suggested that there should be a cap of 50 per cent on the combined spectrum holding by a telecom operator in the sub-1GHz bands of 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz. "Revising the limit for the spectrum cap holding will facilitate consolidation of telecom licensees and may encourage the participation in the future auction", the government said. However, the debt payment extension will have only minimal benefit unless the interest rate is also reduced, Mr. Mathews said. "The systemic issues of the industry still remain unaddressed, like excessive taxes and levies of 30% or more. We hope the Govt will accelerate these relief measures so that the industry can continue meeting the goals of the Prime Minister's Digital India Vision", he said.

Relief call for telecom