Millennium Post

Trai wants USO levy cut from 5% to 3%

Telecom regulator Trai on Tuesday recommended that the USO levy, a part of licence fee paid by operators, should be reduced to 3 per cent of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) from the current 5 per cent. Telecom operators pay 8 per cent of their AGR as licence fee to the government, of which 5 per cent go to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USO Fund) and the rest 3 per cent to the government.

The recommendation, if implemented, would bring down licence fee to 6 per cent of AGR for operators. USO fund, administered by DoT, was set up in 2002 to provide mobile services and broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas.

Trai recommended that with effect from April 1, 2015, the component of USO levy should be reduced from the present 5 per cent to 3 per cent of AGR for all licences. "With this reduction, the applicable uniform rate of licence fee would become 6 per cent (from the present 8 per cent) of AGR viz. the 3 per cent of LF that directly accrues currently to the government will not change," Trai said in its recommendations on definition of revenue base for the reckoning of licence fee and spectrum usage charges.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said USO funds have not been utilised fully in the past few years. "Of the Rs 58,579 crore collected for the USOF between 2002-03 to 2013-14, Rs 33,683 crore remained unutilised as on March 31, 2014, representing 57 per cent of the USO levy collected," Trai said.

The authority notes that even after the lapse of more than 10 years, utilisation is well below 50 per cent.

Trai said since 2010, about Rs 1,50,830 crore has been mopped up from spectrum auctions and telecom operators, excluding BSNL and MTNL, have paid around Rs 18,075 crore as spectrum usage charges (SUC) between 2010-11 to 2013-14.
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