Telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, have urged the telecom regulator Trai that additional spectrum usage charge (SUC) of 0.5 % must only be applicable in shared spectrum bands rather than the entire spectrum band. Not only this, but the telcos have asked Trai to consider the necessity of SUC charge as the airwaves are purchased in auction by paying market prices. As reported by ET Telecom, telcos stated that additional fees on the whole spectrum band would discourage all the telecom operators from entering into shared spectrum agreements.
Trai Must Also Consider Inter-Band Sharing and Microwave Backhaul
Telecom operators have also asked the telecom regulator to consider inter-band sharing and allow microwave backhaul sharing as it will increase the efficiency of spectrum for coverage, capacity, speed and quality of users. Rahul Vatts, who is the chief regulatory officer at Bharti Airtel, has stated that carrier aggregation technologies are rampant across the world.
Also, LTE (4G) is present in all bands. To ensure technology evolution, Trai must consider allowing inter-band sharing. He also stated that since data demand and usage in India has grown extensively, fibre technology is playing a crucial role in providing connection in small and remote areas which is further dependent upon availability of backhaul sharing. To cater to the growing demand of data, Trai must also consider microwave backhaul sharing.
Additional Spectrum Charge Will Financially Distress the Telcos
Vikram Tiwathia, who is the deputy director-general of COAI, represented telecom operators and stated that additional revenue earned by spectrum sharing attracts license fees and SUC. Currently, telcos pay 3 to 5% of the AGR earnings to Dot towards spectrum usage charge. Since the telecom operators already pay SUC for their respective spectrum holdings, additional charges demand by the telecom regulator will be a final disincentive for all the telecom operators.
As of current laws, telecom operators have to pay an extra 0.5% of the AGR on sharing airwaves with other operators for the whole band as spectrum usage charge (SUC) and not the shared spectrum. Trai has already received a backreference from DoT back in April regarding changes in spectrum calculation and application paid by telcos on the shared spectrum.