In a major relief to Reliance Jio, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has stayed the department of telecommunications’ (DoT’s) demand for Rs 1,300 crore more towards spectrum usage charge (SUC) for the 2016-21 period.
The company had moved the tribunal over DoT’s methodology of computing SUC in cases where a telecom service provider has a spectrum sharing pact with another operator.
While coming out with the guidelines related to spectrum sharing way back in 2015, DoT had said that companies who enter into such pacts will have to pay an additional 0.5% over their regular SUC, which is calculated on the adjusted gross revenue of the operators.
According to the guidelines, spectrum sharing can be done between two companies in the same spectrum band.
While calculating the SUC, DoT added the 0.5% additional levy on Jio for shared spectrum with Reliance Communications in the 800 MHz band on the overall spectrum charge amount. Jio’s contention was that since it shared spectrum only in the 800 MHz band, the additional charge should be levied on this very band and not on the overall amount. In the DoT way of computation, the total amount the company needed to pay went up by some `1,300 crore.
Though TDSAT has stayed DoT’s demand for now and the next date of hearing is towards the latter part of February, Jio has stated that the telecom department has departed from the recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in the computation methodology, thereby flouting Section 11 of the Trai Act.
“The Trai recommendation was to add 0.5% only in bands in which spectrum is traded, not on the entire spectrum held. If DoT departed from it, it should have sent a back reference to the regulator and sought its views, which was not done,” Jio has argued.
Jio had entered into spectrum sharing pact with Reliance Communications in 17 circles between 2016 and 2021 in the spectrum band of 800 MHz. The pact was annulled after Jio acquired the 800 MHz spectrum in the 2021 auctions. The company also acquired spectrum in the 800 MHz band from Bharti Airtel across three circles through a spectrum trading pact in the same year. Financial Express