More than three quarters after the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) formalised the new Unified licencing (UL) norms that make spectrum technology neutral, no telecom operator has applied for migration from their existing unified access service licences (UASL).
According to a recent communication of the DoT, no licensee has approached the DoT so far to liberalise their existing spectrum holding in the 1800 MHz band. Under the UASL norms, spectrum is linked to licences, and a particular band of radio wave is restricted to be used in a particular technology.
For instance, the 1800 MHz spectrum band under UASL can only be used in offering 2G connectivity.
The UL was brought in to maximise usage of a limited natural resource (spectrum) by cellular operators and the DoT has de-linked spectrum from licences under the new UL.
It has also proposed to harmonise the spectrum that it has made available for commercial usage.
According to industry insiders, many licences are getting expired and the companies would require buying spectrum through auctions and the licences this time would be according to UL.
Instead of migration, companies prefer acquiring fresh licences.
On the other hand, companies are required to pay a fee for the migration.
All the incumbent operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communications (RCom) and Aircel are on UASL, while new entrants like Uninor and Sistema Shyam Teleservices have UL as they have started fresh after acquiring fresh spectrum in the auctions after UL came into existence.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is yet to start commercial operations, has also received UL.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters