Mobile Carriers Can Hold More Spectrum; Payment Norms Eased
Mobile Carriers Can Hold More Spectrum; Payment Norms Eased
Cabinet approves relief packages for the telecom sector
10 March, 2018, 09:41
"These include restructuring the deferred payment liabilities of the spectrum auction of telecom service providers and revising the limit of the cap for spectrum holding for telecom service providers", an official statement said.
"Telecom firms were given one-time opportunity to opt for higher number of installments (maximum 16 installments) apart from now permitted 10 installments for payment for the spectrum brought through auction".
According to the United States brokerage, scrapping of the earlier 50% limit put on telcos on holding airwaves within each band, post-mergers, will also enable Reliance Jio to target Reliance Communications' unsold, liberalised spectrum in the 800 Mhz band, considered among the best for 4G services. Instead, there is a limit of 50 per cent on the combined spectrum holding in the sub-1 GHz bands (700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands).
If Reliance Jio were to buy all of RCom's spectrum in the 800MHz band under the previous spectrum-holding norms, it would have breached caps in 11 telecom circles.
The package was cleared by the Cabinet based on the recommendations of the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) on the telecom sector. In line with earlier recommendations of TRAI, the current cap of 50% on intra-band spectrum holding has also been removed.
The cabinet approved raising the overall spectrum cap per operator in a telecom circle to 35 per cent from the current 25 per cent. "The total amount received will be higher by ₹74,446.01 crore till 2034-35", the statement said.
The revised spectrum caps limits may be revisited after Final Acts of World Radio-communication Conference (WRC) 2019.
The move will facilitate consolidations as well as mergers and acquisitions in the sector. "However, more steps are needed", said Rajan S. Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, an industry body representing major telecom companies.
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The government is hopeful that this move would encourage participation in future spectrum auctions.
The financial stress in the sector has seen Reliance Communication sell assets to Reliance Jio while Vodafone and Idea have chose to merge to create a stronger balance sheet. The combined entity will replace Bharti Airtel Ltd as the country's largest operator.
Market leader Airtel first took over Telenor and then Tata Group's consumer mobile business.
"The estimated $200 million higher cash flows for Bharti and Idea", following Cabinet approval of relief measures, "will be particularly beneficial for Idea, which has a net debt-to-Ebitda ratio of over seven times, but will not impact Bharti Airtel as it has a fairly strong balance sheet", Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients.
It has also relaxed the spectrum holding limit for the telecom operators, according to an official spokesperson.
Telecom operators have traded charges on multiple occasions, blaming each other for the sector's financial difficulties.
The Indian government has approved measures aimed at easing business in the telecom sector, following the recent bankruptcy of two mobile operators.
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