In what could be a relief to telecom operators, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Tuesday, agreed to restrictan increment of 0.5 per cent on the spectrum usage charge (SUC) rate on the spectrum holding in a specific band in which sharing is taking place, and not on the entire spectrum holding (all bands) of the licensee.

The move comes after the telcos repeatedly requested the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) to restrict the SUC levy.

In 2020, DoT had sought TRAI’s views on the matter and TRAI had responded by supporting the telcos’ request that the additional SUC levy should only apply to the specific bands being shared.

“...based on the Recommendations of the Authority, the incremental SUC should apply to the spectrum band which is being shared and not on the overall weighted average SUC, which includes all the spectrum bands held by the telecom service provider (TSP),” TRAI had said in its response then also.

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It had added that in case incremental SUC is made applicable on overall weighted average, ‘the cost of spectrum sharing could surpass the benefits achieved by the TSPs. Moreover, there is no rationale in incrementing overall weighted average SUC, post sharing of spectrum in specific band(s)’.

Spectrum-sharing arrangement results in an enhanced efficiency resulting into increased capacity. Since the “Guidelines on spectrum sharing” permit intra-band spectrum sharing only, capacity would be enhanced only in the spectrum bands being shared, it mentioned.

However, in January this year, the DoT sent the issue back to TRAI for reconsideration. But, TRAI’s stance remained unchanged and reiterated that there are no new facts to consider.

“The Authority has considered the back reference dated January 27, 2023 of the government. In the absence of any new facts and considering the above discussion, the Authority has nothing to add further,” it added.