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Telecom dept likely to strike down Railways' free spectrum demand

Megha Manchanda/New Delhi 14 Apr 19 | 12:00 AM

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to strike down the Indian Railways’ demand for airwaves worth Rs 65,000 crore in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band. The DoT is against giving a premium spectrum to Railways for free as it would lose out on the revenue from the auction of those airwaves, said sources familiar with the development.

The Railways had asked for 10 MHz of spectrum in 700 MHz band for setting up public safety and security services. After the Railways sent the proposal to the DoT, it was taken to the Digital Communications Commission, which in turned directed the DoT to seek the views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

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Trai had earlier recommended the auction route for the allocation of 700 MHz spectrum to the Railways.

“The frequency band is earmarked for mobile services and allocating it to the Railways for non-commercial use may adversely impact levies like adjusted gross revenue, spectrum usage charges and licence fee," a DoT official said.

This was conveyed to the regulator. The DoT is now awaiting Trai response. The airwaves in the 700 MHz band are considered premium for long-distance mobile communications as they require less number of mobile towers to provide services, compared to 3G and 4G services.

Trai recommended a base price of Rs 6,568 crore per megahertz of airwaves in 700 MHz band, implying the total value of airwaves at Rs 65,680 crore at the reserve price. The same 700 MHz band spectrum remained unsold in the 2016 auctions when Trai had fixed a base price of Rs 11,485 crore per MHz.

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