In a move that could help companies significantly reduce cost of mobile services, telecom regulator TRAI today recommended allowing sharing of all categories of airwaves held by operators including spectrum allocated at old price of Rs 1,658 crore or assigned without auction.
"All access spectrum i.e. spectrum in the bands of 800/900/1800/2100/ 2300/2500 MHz will be sharable provided that both the licensees are having spectrum in the same band," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in its recommendation on Guidelines on Spectrum Sharing.
At present, telecom operators have been allocated airwaves frequency in 800 megahertz (CDMA), 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz (3G), 2300 Mhz and 2500 Mhz (4G) for wireless telecom services.
The Economic Survey had earlier this month recommended the government to come out with better spectrum management through measures like trading and sharing of spectrum so as to bring down the cost of spectrum.
The price of spectrum in last auction was about five times more compared to price of spectrum allocated under old licencing regime. The new regime was notified in August 2013 by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
"If any one or both of the licensees, sharing their spectrum, have administratively assigned spectrum (allocated without auction) in that band, then, after sharing, they will be permitted to provide only those services which can be provided through the administratively held spectrum," TRAI recommended.
At present, telecom operators are allowed to share passive infrastructure like mobile towers which has helped them reducing operational cost but not active infrastructure like spectrum.
The government in February 2012 in-principle approved sharing of only those spectrum under new licencing regime which have been purchased through spectrum auction to increase interest of bidders and enhance revenue generation in the auction.
It in-principle approved sharing of spectrum allocated without auction on condition that companies holding such airwaves will have to pay one-time spectrum charge which cumulatively amounted to about Rs 30,000 crore for both GSM and CDMA spectrum as estimated by DoT last year.
Telecom companies have challenged in various courts the government's decision to impose one-time spectrum charge and the matter is subjudice.
The move to allow sharing of all kind of airwaves if approved by the government, will benefit incumbent players like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Aircel and Tata Teleservices to bring down cost of spectrum ownership.