Licenses for Life?

11:40 AM -- India's mobile operators could find themselves holding licenses that will never run out, if the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) agrees with recommendations from the Department of Telecommunications that the length limitations of licenses should be removed.

Check out this Business Standard report for more details.

This isn't as weird or as radical as it sounds, as India distinguishes between license issue and spectrum allocation, which means operators will still have to pay for new spectrum even if they hold an everlasting license.

The Universal Licenses that are now issued by the Indian government give an operator the right to operate services and to apply for spectrum. That spectrum is then paid for separately, as happened following the issuance of 2G licenses in 2008.

As for the 3G spectrum auctions, successful bidders that don't hold licenses will be given licenses, assuming that they meet all the other requirements. The separation also means that spectrum re-farming would be possible even without time limits on the licenses.

It would also ease worries of India's earliest operators, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) and Vodafone India , which face the prospect of their licenses for the key metro circles running out in 2014.

This is different from most countries around the world, where licenses are tied to specific spectrum for a specific time period.

For more on licensing in the Indian market, see: A Guide to India's Telecom Market.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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