The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Wednesday started allocating 3G spectrum to telecom operators, giving relief to all the seven companies that emerged successful in the intense bidding process that took place in May this year. But DoT has made some changes in the licence terms to ensure speedy roll-out of 3G networks and also efficient use of scarce spectrum. DoT has said that operators were authorised to use the spectrum for 20 years from September 1, 2010, even if their telecom licences expired before that period.
DoT has also imposed roll-out obligation under which the operators will have to cover at least 90 per cent of the service areas in the metro circles and at least 50 per cent in most of the other circles within the next five years. If the operators failed to achieve the roll-out obligations, they would be given extension for one more year after paying 2.5 per cent of the spectrum acquisition charge per quarter.
Similarly, each licensee will also have to pay the annual licence fee as share of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) from the services using 3G spectrum. In the case of two companies merging, only one slot of spectrum can be retained, according to the amended rules. The operators will also have to pay the upward revised spectrum usage charges ranging between 3 per cent and 8 per cent depending on the quantum of spectrum held by them.
Besides State-owned BSNL and MTNL, seven private operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular, Aircel and STel — have got 3G spectrum. The Centre had got Rs.67,000 crore through the 3G spectrum auction — Rs.51,000 crore from private operators and Rs.16,000 crore from the two telecom PSUs.
In the two metros — Delhi and Mumbai — three operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Communications — had emerged winners, while no operator could bag pan-India spectrum in the auction.