DoT seeks Attorney General’s advice on Airtel’s internet license merger issue

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has approached Attorney General for advice on whether it should impose a fee on Bharti Airtel for merging the four internet licences acquired from Qualcomm with its existing unified licences. Initially DoT had said that Airtel has to pay Rs 436 crore for merging the licences, Airtel had acquired ABSPL. Airtel Broadband Services (ABS), formerly Wireless Business Services Private Limited — a telecom company founded by US chip maker Qualcomm.

Airtel Store Delhi

Qualcomm had taken the Internet Service Provider’s licence for acquiring the broadband spectrum in 2010. But an operator with internet licence is not allowed to offer voice service. Under the new unified licence regime, if an operator with internet licence wants to offer voice services, then it would have to pay a one-time migration fee. ABS was holding broadband wireless access spectrum in four service areas — Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala and Haryana— that can be used for 4G services. The company has internet service provider licence.

After this acquisition, Airtel had permits to operate BWA services in a total of eight service areas including the circles of Punjab, Maharashtra, Kolkata and Karnataka that it had bought in the 2010 auctions.

In the meantime, Bharti Airtel had sought approval of the telecom department for merging its broadband wireless access (BWA) services in four circles of Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala with its mobile operations in the corresponding service areas.

On the other hand, Reliance Jio Infocomm, which holds pan-India BWA spectrum, had to pay about Rs. 1,673 crore for migrating from ISP licence to UL last year. It is now free to use its BWA spectrum for all kind of telecom services.

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