The Telecom Commission today sought clarifications and more details on the recommendations of the inter-ministerial group (IMG) on deferred spectrum payment liability as well as shifting from Prime Lending Rate (PLR) to marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) regime for calculation of interest on delayed payment of licence fees and spectrum usage changes.
On IMG, the TC has asked for clarifications and more details on some of the recommendations on the deferred payment liability and as well as replacing PLR with MCLR .They will come back to TC at the earliest when the Commission meets after two weeks, official sources said.
The IMG was set up in May this year to examine systemic issues affecting viability and repayment capacity in the telecom sector and give recommendations for resolution of stressed assets and improve the financial health of the industry.
The panel has given in-principle approval for all the recommendations given by the IMG.
On some of the proposals in-principle approval was given and they could be taken as the final recommendations and for the others we have asked for details. Its not that the Commission accepted other proposals but there was not any clarification sought, sources said.
The other key issue taken up today was the current spectrum cap is not being changed. It will go to TRAI for recommendations for any changes to be made.
IMG has recommended a 16-year (plus 2 year moratorium) period instead of present 10 years for deferred spectrum payments.
Once the Telecom Commission, a highest decision making inter-Ministerial Panel meets again in two weeks to review the clarification and approves the proposals, then it will be sent to the Cabinet.
Sources however, declined to give the proposals that have got a go ahead from the panel.
Since there would be a change in NIA (Notice Inviting Tender) conditions, the final suggestions would be sent to the Cabinet for approval, they said.
The panel had already suggested sector regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to review the spectrum cap to facilitate merger and acquisitions (M&A) in the industry, which was seen as a deterrent in view of latest large scale mergers where breaching spectrum cap was very much real. .
The panel also sought clarification from the sector regulator on its recommendation to offer free data.
In December 2016, Trai suggested a free data offering for ubiquitous connectivity which the commission has also sent back to it asking how it could be implementated, sources said.
Sources said six states -- Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh -- would take up their own state-led model of Bharat Net. They had submitted detailed project reports earlier, which were approved.
The total cost of Bharat Net Phase II is Rs 18,792 crore. The cost of implementing it in six states would be around Rs 7,000 crore.
For mobile towers' coverage of uncovered areas under the Universal Service Obligation Fund, around 4,177 towers will be installed for covering 4,502 villages at a cost of Rs 3,100 crore. After this project, only two states will remain uncovered under this project -- Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Commission has approved USO (Universal Service Obligation) funded mobile connectivity plan for the North East region excluding Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh at an outlay of Rs 3,100 crore which has gone to Bharti Airtel which was only bidder in the tender together with its subsidiary Bharti Hexacom Ltd would now undertake phase – II of the program to deploy 4177 towers in 4,502 villages.
Some of the states would be taken up by state run BSNL and PGCIL as well.
The commission has approved Rs 18, 792 crore for the second phase of the ambitious program to provide connectivity to villages, in addition it has decided to offer satellite-based connectivity in 30,000 villages which would be undertaken by government’s Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL).