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4G holders allowed to offer voice calls

4G holders allowed to offer voice calls

Inter-ministerial body Telecom Commission on Monday  approved a recommendation that allows companies having ISP licences and holding 4G spectrum to offer phone calls services by paying a fee of Rs 1,658 crore each, a decision that left industry bodies divided.

Inter-ministerial body Telecom Commission on Monday  approved a recommendation that allows companies having ISP licences and holding 4G spectrum to offer phone calls services by paying a fee of Rs 1,658 crore each, a decision that left industry bodies divided.

The Telecom Commission decision, if finally approved by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, will allow companies like Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJI), Augere, Tikona Digital, if they want, to offer mobile phone service using BWA spectrum that they won in 2010 auction.

"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)," Telecom Commission Chairman R Chandrashekhar, who is also the Telecom Secretary, said.

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

For companies who wish to continue to "provide limited services like only Internet services under cafeteria approach they can do so with a lower entry fee which will be same as present," Chandrashekhar said.

Telecom service providers who want to provide any additional services apart from their current offerings, will have to go for unified licence. In case of mergers and acquisitions also, the companies need to go for unified licence.

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

Reacting to the development, GSM industry body COAI said that it had recommended the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to charge ISP companies amount equivalent to what companies mobile phone service providers paid for licences.

"This is the cost if you want to enter voice telephony business. We support government not bundling spectrum with this payment," Cellular Operators Association of India's Director General Rajan S Mathews said.

The Association of United Telecom Service Providers of India (Auspi), however, said the charge of Rs 1,658 crore is minuscule compared to the amount that companies paid for 3G spectrum.