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TRAI Demands Public Views on Spectrum Charges For Satellite-Based Phone Services

Telecom regulator TRAI has invited public views on calculation of spectrum charges for satellite-based services using systems installed in India under a special licence category.

Telecom regulator TRAI has invited public views on the calculation of spectrum charges for satellite-based services using systems installed in India under a special licence category.

This follows the Department of Telecom (DoT) seeking TRAI’s recommendation on BSNL’s request to change the present method of levying spectrum charges on its satellite services as they are too expensive for subscribers.

“BSNL has been requesting to change the present methodology of spectrum charging from formula-based to Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) based for the provision…this consultation paper has been prepared to discuss the issues involved,” TRAI said in a consultation paper floated Wednesday.

The satellite phone service of BSNL caters to government departments. The company was given licence under ‘sui generis’ category to meet the requirement of security forces on an urgent basis.

BSNL established the satellite gateway (or hub) in Ghaziabad and launched the Global Satellite Phone (GSP) Service in May 2017. The licence permits BSNL to provide all types of mobile satellite services.

According to the paper floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), BSNL had 3,448 satellite phone subscribers by the end of August 2018.

As per the information provided by BSNL, average usage of a satellite phone user is about 15 minutes of voice calls and 7 SMSes in a month.

The state-run firm is required to pay spectrum related charges as per the present norms that are linked to a number of terminals and frequency of bandwidth used by them, at the rate of Rs 14,250 per annum per terminal.

In addition, annual spectrum charges for the gateway are levied separately, which amounts to Rs 37.81 lakh per annum.

BSNL has submitted that due to heavy spectrum charges, the service is not affordable.

The company has also informed the DoT that the client departments do not immediately place the orders and there is a gap of 3-6 months between BSNL procuring the handsets and the client getting the satphones.

“BSNL pays this fee on behalf of the users in advance at the time of issue of Letter of Intent. BSNL has already paid about Rs. 11.4 crores towards the terminal based spectrum charges,” the paper said, citing BSNL communication to the DoT.

Out of the 8,000 satphone terminals imported by BSNL as of August 31, 2018, only 1,973 terminals were actually being used by the subscribers.

TRAI has sought written comments on the consultation paper by October 31 and counter-comments by November 8 on the issues raised. – Devdis Course

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