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TRAI recommends reducing levies on satellite services 

Telecom regulator TRAI on Thursday recommended to the government to reduce/remove various levies imposed on satellite operators as well as measures like avoiding intermediaries in the segment to make services affordable. 

The regulator, in its recommendations on licensing framework for satellite-based connectivity for low bit rate applications, has suggested allowing use of all types of satellites for low bit rate connectivity. 

It also recommended use of foreign satellites for providing connectivity for a longer duration than the permissible 3-5 years at present. 

Low bit rate services are required for machine-to-machine communications, sensors used for tracking cargo, vehicles, railway and traffic signals, soil content for farming, among others.

“The service licensees should be mandated to establish the earth station in India, corresponding to the chosen foreign satellite or satellite system, prior to using the leased capacities,” Trai recommended. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said providing choice to the VSAT operators to directly negotiate and execute agreements with the satellite system provider will also help in avoiding the intermediaries and making the satellite-based services affordable. 

The regulator has not recommended any separate licence for low bit rate services but has suggested amendment in the existing GMPCS (Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite) licence meant for satellite services. 

Trai has also pitched for lowering the spectrum usage charges to 1 per cent from 4 per cent for low bit rate satellite connectivity. 

“Replacing the existing formula-based mechanism, spectrum usage charges for using satellite frequencies under the GMPCS service authorization should be prescribed as 1 per cent of AGR. These charges would cover the entire spectrum charges for handsets/user devices as well as for earth stations,” Trai said. 

The regulator has also recommended removal of network operations and control centre (NOCC) charges and facilitation charges by the government when hiring foreign capacities from the approved list of foreign players. 

“The Authority recommends that the government should consider doing away with the NOCC charges for use of space segments. The spectrum charges paid by the service licensee should cover all the administrative, operational and testing charges,” Trai said. 

At present government levies NOCC charges of Rs 21 lakh per transponder per annum along with applicable service tax and cess on satellites, and Rs 6,000 per antenna per trial for mandatory performance validation testing of earth station. 

Trai recommended that as per captive VSAT CUG (closed user group) service license, the licensee shall pay license fee annually at Rs 10,000 per annum per VSAT terminal or earth stations installed. 

The regulator further suggested that there should not be any separate license fee for the Internet of Things and aggregator devices which are connected to VSAT terminal in a hybrid model of architecture.   

Besides, Trai has called for setting up a comprehensive, simplified, integrated, end-to-end coordinated, single window online common portal, having inter-departmental linkages for transfer of application and information for parallel processing. 

The portal should connect all the agencies involved in grant of various approvals like the Department of Space, Department of Telecom etc, wherein the service licensees can place their request and the agencies respond online in a transparent and time-bound manner. 

The regulator said the National Single Window System (NSWS) portal established by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), known as Maadhyam, should include the Department of Space. PTI

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