The government has demanded payment of over Rs23,000 crore from telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and BSNL, for excess spectrum they hold beyond the prescribed limit.
The government is likely to get a little over Rs23,177 crore from one-time spectrum fee that is being levied on existing operators for holding radiowaves beyond a prescribed limit.
This includes Rs4,251.83 crore in retrospective charges and another Rs18,925.82 by way of prospective charges, which add up to Rs23,177.65 crore.
"The notices have been issued to the operators today," an official source said.
State-owned BSNL will have to pay the highest amount of around Rs6,912 crore, followed by Bharti Airtel (Rs5,201 crore), Vodafone (Rs3,599 crore), MTNL (Rs3,205 crore), Idea Cellular (Rs2,113 crore (including Rs231.5 crore of Spice)), Aircel (Rs1,365 crore (including Rs14 crore of Dishnet)), Loop Mobile (Rs606 crore) and Reliance Communications (Rs173 crore).
The telecom operators were given 4.4 MHz of spectrum at a licence price of Rs1,658 crore for pan-India operations during the resale of spectrum under a Supreme Court order. Later, they were entitled to 1.8 MHz of spectrum on fulfilment of certain subscriber base criteria.
The government had, in November, decided that existing operators should pay for holding spectrum above 6.2 MHz retrospectively (from July 2008 to 1 January 2013). For spectrum above 4.4MHz, they would have to pay for the remaining period of their licences starting 1 January 2013.
Telecom operators not willing to pay the one-time fee have the option to surrender their additional and excess spectrum.