The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will give its much-awaited view on annual spectrum usage charges (SUC) to the department of telecom (DoT) this week, a top official said.

“The DoT has written to us seeking view of TRAI on SUC. We had sought some additional information. We will send our response within this week,” TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma said.

The cabinet last month approved spectrum auction rules except spectrum usage charges recommended by the inter-ministerial panel Telecom Commission.

Earlier, the DoT had planned to hold the spectrum auction in July but with the cabinet asking for TRAI’s view on SUC, it deferred the sale, in which airwaves worth Rs.5.66 trillion will be put on the block, till September.

The Telecom Commission had recommended that government should levy 3 percent SUC on airwaves that will be allocated to companies following the auction. The TRAI had recommended SUC at a uniform rate of 3 percent across the industry and gradually bringing it down to 1 percent of revenues from telecom services.

The SUC has been a highly contentious issue of late with the industry. Reliance Jio has opposed levying of uniform SUC rates, as suggested by TRAI, as it pays only 1 percent on its spectrum in the 2,300 MHz (megahertz) band (broadband wireless access).

Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said the Telecom Commission took the opinion of the attorney general on SUC after the recommendation of TRAI was received, and hence there was a need to consult the regulator again before a final call was taken.

Before 2010, there was only 2G spectrum and hence the calculation of revenue was easy. But the process became complex after new frequencies were allocated to companies for services such as 3G and 4G.

A technical panel of the DoT has said it is difficult to segregate revenue of companies holding airwaves in multiple bands. The government in January 2014 decided to cap SUC at a flat 5 percent for spectrum that was to be procured in the future auctions.

At that point, telecom operators were asked to pay the weighted average of their existing SUC (on the old rate of 3-8 percent) based on the quantum of spectrum they hold and 5 percent if they acquired new spectrum.

All telcos fail call drop test in Sikkim and Darjeeling

Exposing poor state of mobile services in Sikkim and Darjeeling, all telecom operators failed in the TRAI’s call drop test and also most of the calls could not be connected on their networks.

“All operators failed to meet the call drop rate benchmark... most of the operators failed to meet the call blocked rate benchmark, except MTS CDMA,” TRAI said.

The call drop and the blocked call rate, or the phenomenon of inability to connect a call when a subscriber dials, were found across all areas of Sikkim and Darjeeling, the TRAI report on drive tests conducted between 25 and 27 May said.

TRAI has fixed a penalty of up to Rs.2 lakh for poor mobile services, including call drops. This penalty kicks in for more than 2 percent call drops in a quarter in one telecom circle. The regulator found Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) using a high value of radio-link timeout (RLT) technology compared to the level generally used by them in most other cities.

High value of RLT is alleged to be used by telecom operators for reducing call drop incidents in their records. The regulator also published the results of the drive tests conducted in Ranchi from 1 to 3 June in which all operators, except Telenor, failed to meet the call drop benchmark.

“A big gap between the good performance operators (Telenor 2G, Idea 2G and Vodafone 2G) compared to the poor performances of other operators clearly shows in the areas driven, it is possible for other operators to offer much better quality of service than in currently being provided,” the report said.

Idea marginally failed to meet call drop benchmark; call drop on Vodafone’s network was little above 3 percent compared to the benchmark of 2 percent. - Live Mint

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