India’s telecom regulator on Thursday said that promoting “Ease of doing business” is essential for unhindered growth of the telecom sector and is amongst the priorities of the government. It has also recommended various steps for improving ease of doing business in the sector, including speedier merger and acquisition approvals and easier norms that would allow trading of the excess spectrum of a merged entity within a year and a 30-day timeline for telecom department to approve mergers and acquisitions.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that some steps have already been taken for ease of doing telecom business by the government. With the change in the policies over a period of time or with the technological development, there could be some processes, which may have become redundant or may be executed efficiently and transparently.
The regulator said that the entire process of SACFA clearance as well as a grant of all licences/ approvals, that are issued by WPC, should be made paper-less and executed end-to-end through an online portal. It added that there should be a defined time-line not exceeding 30 days within which an import licence should be granted, and the same may be declared in the portal as well as in the Citizen’s Charter.
Trai said that the Department of Telecom (DoT) “should spell out a definite timeline, not exceeding 30 days post-NCLT approval, for providing written approval to transfer/merger of licences by the Licensor and it should be made a part of the M&A Guidelines.”
“If the merger results in excess spectrum holding beyond permissible spectrum cap, the transferee company/resultant entity should be given an option to either surrender or trade its spectrum holding, within the stipulated period of one year,” it said.
The regulator said that spectrum trading should be permitted in all the access spectrum bands which have been put to auction. The permissible block size for trading in a band should be same as specified in the NIA for the latest auction held.
“The TSPs should be charged for roll-out obligations test fee only for the DHQs/ BHQs/ SDCAs which are actually tested by TERM Cells,” it said.
Trai said that the Performance Bank Guarantee (PBG) for a particular phase of roll-out obligations should be released after successful certification by TERM Cell. If TERM Cell fails to submit its report within 12 months after the date of the offer, PBG should not be held back on account of pendency of testing. Further, the DoT should review the process adopted by CCA for the refund of bank guarantee and should ensure that CCA does not take more than 30 days for the release of bank guarantee.
“DoT should devise a suitable matrix, linking the penalty to the severity of the incident and recurrence of the violation for the imposition of financial penalties,” the regulator said.