New Delhi: A high-powered ministerial panel on Wednesday allowed Norwegian telecom firm Telenor's Indian arm to adjust Rs 1,658 crore licence fee it had paid in 2008 against the final price it has to pay for buying spectrum.
Uninor, formerly Unitech Wireless, had in 2008 paid an entry fee of Rs 1,658 crore for licence to operate in 22 telecom zones. However, all of its licences were among the 122 permits that Supreme Court cancelled last year.
The companies whose licences were cancelled were asked to buy spectrum in government auction. Telenor participated in November 2012 spectrum auction through new entity Telewings Communications and won airwaves in six circles for Rs 4,018.28 crore.
Telenor has said that it is in process to transfer business from Uninor to Telewings Communications.
An Empowered Group of Minister (EGoM) decided that the company will have to pay only about Rs 2,360 crore after deducting Rs 1,658 crore it had already paid in 2008, sources said.
As per the government scheme, companies which had bid and won spectrum in the November auction were allowed to adjust the entry fee they paid for licences that were cancelled by Supreme Court in February 2012 judgement against the final price to be paid. However, the licence fee for the firms that did not bid for spectrum in the auction will not be refunded.
"EGoM decided to adjust entry fee paid by Unitech Wireless (Now Uninor) in 2008," sources told PTI.
Uninor's Rs 1,658 crore licence fee was not adjusted earlier as the government had said the Telenor-owned Telewings, which won spectrum in six telecom circles, was a different company from Uninor.
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram took no decision on any other issue as it decided to first conduct the auction of 800 MHz spectrum on March 11 and than after assessing the situation, approach the Supreme Court for further action.
"EGoM met today and decided that after the auction is conducted on March 11 we will then assess the situation and then go back to the Supreme Court and inform them as to what steps we will take to conduct the auction in accordance with Supreme Court order, so no decision was taken.. ," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here.
The EGoM was to take a decision on the third round of spectrum auction, which has to be conducted to comply with the Supreme Court order of February 15, 2013. In the order, the apex court had directed government to put entire spectrum for auction that was freed from cancellation of 122 2G licences.
The government had put on sale 271.25 Mhz of spectrum in November 2012 even as 473.6 Mhz of spectrum, including 60 Mhz of CDMA spectrum, was freed after the Supreme Court order in February last year cancelled 122 licences. The CDMA spectrum auction,however, was in compliant with the apex court order.
To comply with Supreme Court order, DoT will have to auction airwaves in at least 20 circles.
The second round of spectrum auction is scheduled to start from March 11. The government has received only one application from Sistema Shyam Teleservices for participating in spectrum auction.