The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is planning to issue demand notice to nine operators, asking them to pay one-time spectrum usage charges (SUC) of Rs 24.51 billion for continuing operations following the cancellation of their licences by the Supreme Court (SC) in February 2012.
Earlier, DoT had estimated SUC at about Rs 26 billion, which included basic fee, fine and interest, from nine operators. However, the revised SUC has been decided based on the date of new licences issued to the players following the spectrum auction. The department had proposed the initial amount assuming that all operators continued to offer services till March 15, 2013. However, players such as Loop Telecom switched off their networks within a few months of the court’s order.
Meanwhile, other players such as Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited (SSTL) and Uninor continued to offer services till they won back the spectrum in select few circles in the spectrum auction conducted by the government in November 2012 and March 2013, respectively. These players were able to sustain their operations because DoT approached the court seeking more time to cancel the licences. Although the initial order was to scrap the licences by August 2012, the department kept seeking extensions till the auctions were held. While agreeing to the extensions, the SC asked DoT to collect SUC from operators based on the reserve price fixed for the auction.
According to provisional charges, liability of SSTL amounted to Rs 6.36 billion, Uninor (Rs 6.52 billion), Idea Cellular (Rs 2.18 billion), Loop Telecom (Rs 1.24 billion), Spice Communications – acquired by Idea Cellular (Rs 2.36 billion), Tata Teleservices Limited (Rs 2.99 crore), Videocon Telecommunications (Rs 4.76 billion), Etisalat DB (Rs 0.94 billion) and S Tel (Rs 0.09 billion).