Reliance Industries, others cell phone venture OK'd by Telecom Com

Reliance communication

Inter-ministerial body, Telecom Commission (TC), today approved provision for companies holding internet services licences with spectrum like Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries group co Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJI), Augere, Tikona Digital to provide cell phone call service by paying additional fee of Rs 1,658 crore each.

"The Commission broadly endorsed recommendation of DoT committee with regard to Unified Licensing regime...The ISP (internet service provider) licence holder who hold BWA spectrum if they wish to provide using that spectrum then an additional fee of Rs 1,658 crore will be levied for migration to Unified Licences (UL)," TC Chairman and Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar said here.

The framework for new licences will be ready by end of this financial year, he added.

In 2010, six private players--RJI, formerly Infotel Broadband, Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Qualcomm, Tikona Digital and Augere had won BWA spectrum.

Bharti Airtel and Aircel have unified access services licence under which they are allowed to provide phone call services both on fixed as well as landline. Other companies were given Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence that has restrictions on providing phone call services across networks.

The additional amount of Rs 1,658 crore was charged from telecom players till 2008 for providing mobile telephony.

The licence issued to mobile telephony operators for Rs 1,658 crore had 4.4 Mhz spectrum bundled with it but government has announced providing no spectrum with UL. The current value of the quantum of spectrum allocated under old licences has increased around 7 times.

"UL does not include any spectrum. Grant of UL including migration to UL does not include any spectrum," Chandrashekhar said.

The TC, however, deferred decision on bringing telecom tower companies, called IP-1, under licences.

"Issue of IP-1 operators under UL regime was deferred and it was decided that this required further study of certain aspects," Chandrashekhar said.

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