New Delhi: The Department of Telecom (DoT) has begun the process of issuing service area level unified licences to those telcos which bagged spectrum in the auctions conducted last November. It has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to approve the interim rules incorporated in such licences and has also sought to get legal sanction for such licences.
In its communication to Trai, DoT has said it is required to submit the status report on the grant of licences to such telcos by 11 January to the Supreme Court; the old licences expire after 18 January. It has said that in view of the Supreme Court deadline, it wants to be able to allot service area level ULs (unified licences) by 9 January.
The DoT communication was sent last Friday and needs to be answered by Trai by 28 December. These norms assume importance since those telcos which had lost licences as per the Supreme Court's order of 2 February would have to cease operations unless new licences are granted.
The most significant change that DoT has been wanting to make in the licensing process is delinking licences from spectrum, unlike the earlier practice of bundling spectrum with them. Also, a UL allows telcos to provide all telecom services with one licence. At present, companies need to get different licences for different types of services, like Internet, mobile, long distance calls, etc.
As per the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA), new players (those telcos which have participated in the November spectrum auctions) will have to pay Rs 1 crore to get ULs for each service area (India has 22 telecom service areas) permit, except for Jammu and Kashmir and North East, where the entry fee shall be Rs 50 lakh each.
The DoT is working on licence guidelines for migrating existing telecom players to the new regime. If the changes it has proposed are approved legally and by Trai, DoT will then begin the process of migrating all existing telcos also to ULs.