TRAI – No need to refund 2G licence fees | Uninor – focus is on staying and not quitting
The telecom regulator has told the government that there is no need to refund the fees paid by 122 2G licence holders whose services will be terminated following the Supreme Court order. While dismissing the demand for an exit policy for these licences issued in January 2008 by jailed telecom minister A Raja, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said that the existing system of non-refundable licence fee should continue.
In a recommendation to the government on Wednesday, Trai said: “The present status is that as per the judgment of the Supreme Court, they (122 licences) stand cancelled after four months of the date of judgment (which was February 2). The authority does not agree with the argument of one of the stakeholders that the licensees have the option of filing a curative petition to the Supreme Court and also file clarification application/s and in the event they are successful in getting relief from the Supreme Court, the original considerations which led to the proposal of an exit policy would become relevant once again. The authority cannot formulate a policy based on the stipulations or likely outcome of a futuristic event. Accordingly, the authority is of the opinion that, at present, there is no need for an exit policy in respect of these UAS Licensees.” The proposal, which will have to be accepted by the government, will come as a new setback for the eight companies that stand to lose their licences following the Supreme Court verdict as several of them will lose the Rs 1,650 crore that they had paid in the rigged licensing exercise.
Etisalat, Loop and S-Tel, who are exiting the Indian market, stand to lose the most, market players said, while most telecom companies did not comment on the recommendations.
“While we study the Trai recommendations, for us, the focus is on staying and not quitting. We hope Trai will come out with auction recommendations that help keep new competition in the market,” Unitech Wireless said. For the government, however, it is a straight gain of at least Rs 8,000 crore at a time when the finance ministry is on the lookout for every single paisa to improve the fiscal health. It is banking on fresh auction of spectrum and licences to mop up around Rs 40,000 crore during the current financial year.