New Delhi, Oct. 7: The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on telecom, headed by finance minister P. Chidambaram, may decide to impose a one-time fee on operators holding more than 6.2 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in its meeting tomorrow.
The department of telecom (DoT), which had insisted on a one-time fee in its presentation to the EGoM, has found support from attorney-general G.E Vahanvati.
Companies such as Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications may benefit as they hold less than 6.2MHz spectrum and, therefore, will not have to pay the fee.
However, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, which hold around 10MHz in many key circles, will have to stump up a substantial amount.
The one-time fee is expected to fetch the government over Rs 22,000 crore. According to officials, around 156MHz of spectrum is held by various operators beyond the contracted limit of 6.2MHz.
The DoT is also likely to seek the cabinet's approval for levying the fee by October 15.
The EGoM had refrained from taking a decision on the fee in its meeting last week as it was awaiting legal opinion from the attorney-general amid heavy lobbying by companies against the move.
Operators had decried the proposal as illegal and in violation of licence conditions, which granted them spectrum for a 20-year period.
The DoT wants existing operators to pay the one-time auction-determined price to create a level-playing field between the new entrants and the incumbents. It contends that while incumbents were allocated spectrum along with pan-India licences at Rs 1,658 crore, new operators will have to pay a minimum of Rs 14,000 crore for spectrum to operate across country.
The telecom department has made three different proposals. These include incumbent operators paying an auction discovered price for the total spectrum held by them; paying a fee for spectrum held beyond the start-up 4.4MHz; or levying a fee on airwaves held beyond the contracted 6.2MHz.
According to the DoT's proposal, the fee will be calculated based on the upcoming auction rates.
If existing players are asked to match the auction price for all airwaves they hold for the remaining period of their licences, it will lead to a windfall gain of up to Rs 1,05,803 crore for the government, according to the telecom department.