Bharti Airtel, India’s top telecom operator has contested Department of Telecom’s decision to charge Rs. 436 crore as fees for the merger of its broadband unit with itself.
Airtel had acquired Qualcomm’s Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) last year and renamed it to Airtel Broadband Services Pvt Ltd. (ABSPL) It had also sought telecom department’s approval to merge ABSL with its Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) across four circles, but DoT now wants it to pay Rs. 436 crore for the same.
Airtel argues that it holds UASL in all circles and is terming the fees as “double entry fee”.
DoT had also collected the same migration fee from Reliance Jio but Airtel doesn’t see it as justifiable. Airtel said that it acquired UASL across the circles of Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai, and Kerala after paying the “applicable entry fee”.
In an explanation letter to DoT Bharti Airtel said, “Under the scope of these licences, we are allowed to provide all types of access services including voice, SMS, data, broadband among others and hence do not require additional authorisation to provide any of these services.”
Airtel also stated that notice inviting the applications for 3G and BWA spectrum is governed by the licence agreement and MA& guidelines also allow the operators to merge their ISP licence with UASL.
U.S. based Qualcomm had won a 20 MHz band in the BWA spectrum auction held in 2010 by paying $1 billion. Airtel had bought the operations for BWA from Qualcomm at an undisclosed amount last year and then named it as ABSPL
Airtel has referred to the NIA clause of the 2010 spectrum auction. According to which, any UASL permit holder is not required to pay any entry fee for acquiring BWA spectrum.
We guess that Airtel will resolve this issue without paying any amount to the DoT. If the clause doesn’t mandate it to pay any fee for the merger then it really shouldn’t. Considering the worst case scenario if the Airtel has to pay any fee to DoT, then consider that cost coming down to the consumers which will reflect on the 4G data tariff plans.