Telecom companies winning spectrum in the upcoming auction may be required to fulfill fresh additional roll-out obligations, with the empowered group of ministers on telecom having taken a view that apart from existing roll-out norms based on covering district headquarters, telecom companies should also be asked to provide coverage up to block head quarters.
This would apply to only those telecom firms that use shared infrastructure created from public funds.
The EGoM headed by the home minister, P Chidambaram, had asked the DoT to get the feedback of operators on the new formula and send a revised proposal for the group's consideration.
The EGoM will meet today to decide on the issue, apart from determining the reserve price for the spectrum auction.
The TRAI had earlier proposed a complete overhaul the roll-out norms by basing it on habitation as against geographical coverage.
However, the DoT junked the proposal on grounds that it would be legally untenable for a drastic change of roll out norms, given that most operators had already completed their existing obligation.
The DoT had instead proposed that operators be asked to extend coverage over 20 per cent of block headquarters in their circles over the first two years and another 10 per cent in the third year.
Coverage beyond that would be left to the discretion of operators depending on the viability of offering services.
Business Line, which claims to have seen the minutes of the last EGoM, reported that a view had emerged that the roll-out obligation should be a mix of the two.
Wherever operators used their own infrastructure no additional roll-out conditions would apply, but in cases where they were sharing towers or any of the other infrastructure, then they would need to roll-out into block headquarters as well.
However, everyone in the industry was awaiting the big decision on the reserve price, with the TRAI proposal fixing the base price at Rs18,000 crore, and the industry wanting it reduced by at least 80 per cent.
While the telecom regulator felt that the proposed base price would up tariffs by 5-10 paise a minute, operators claimed, the hike could be as much as 90 paise a minute.
The Cellular Operators' Association of India has, meanwhile written another letter to the EGoM saying that the TRAI's projections were unrealistic, as it did not take into account various factors including full impact of spectrum re-farming.
Meanwhile, running against the 31 August deadline set by the Supreme Court for the telecom spectrum re-auction, the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) was also expected to decide whether it would approach the SC for an extension of the deadline, for completion of the auction of 2G spectrum by the DoT, according to officials.