Telecom regulator TRAI has started a comprehensive review of various fee and charges related to captive VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) licences, including entry fee, licence fee, royalty charges and bank guarantee. The consultation paper — Captive VSAT CUG (Closed User Group) policy issues — also seeks to remove the difference in licence fee for operating two hubs (earth stations that control and monitor activities of remote terminals). “Is there a need to review some or all of the fee or charges viz. entry fee, licence fee, royalty charges and bank guarantee etc. for captive VSAT CUG licenses…If yes, what should be the appropriate fee or charges,” TRAI said in the consultation paper.
VSAT, a satellite communication technology, is useful for remote and inaccessible locations which lack proper terrestrial connectivity. ‘Captive VSAT Licence’ refers to licence for those networks in which the equipment and facilities are owned and operated by the licensee itself for its own use under one Closed User Group (CUG). The Captive VSATs are deployed by commercial organisations like National Thermal Power Corporation, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, as well as government bodies to cater to their own requirement and applications.
The TRAI paper has also sought industry views on whether licence fee for a second VSAT hub, (being used independently or for redundancy purposes) should be the same as the first VSAT hub, and also the quantum of per annum fee for the second hub. The deadline for sending written comments is November 25, 2016.
At present, the licence fee stands at Rs 10,000 per annum per VSAT earth stations installed, in case of the first hub. But in case the licensee wants to put second hub for geographical redundancy or, say, operational diversity and if that second hub station remains commissioned, a minimum license fee of Rs 16 lakh per annum for up to 100 captive VSATs is applicable in addition to the license fee payable for the first hub.
“…Due to such a huge difference in the license fee, a licensee is discouraged in installing a second hub…even though their operations demand so for maintaining a hot standby,” TRAI said.
TRAI has also asked if the captive VSAT categories should be split into Government oganisations and departments handling important missions, and commercial organisations. It also sought industry’s opinion on the entry fee, licence fee and royalty charges for the two categories, if separated, and whether the proposed rates for not for profit government organizations should be at a discount compared to business organisations.