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India’s regulator announces Phase III radio licencing recommendations

The Telecoms and Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued its recommendations for the rollout of Phase III of private radio licencing in the country.

Asia Radio Today reports 839 new FM frequencies will be auctioned across 239 cities under proposals eagerly awaited by the industry for several years.

TRAI has agreed that licences should be awarded for 15 instead of 10 years, which was the standard length under Phase II.

Existing broadcasters will be automatically migrated to Phase III licensing rules unless they request to allow their Phase II licenses to lapse. The cut off date for migration to the new licences should be no later than March 31, 2015 after the completion of the auction process.

Officials have categorised cities into three groups X, Y and Z to work out the migration fees due.

X contains 17 cities where no frequencies are up for auction, Y consists of 26 cities where fewer than a third of the frequencies are set for auction and group Z contains 42 cities where more than a third of the licences are up for grabs.

FM channel spacing will be reduced from 800 to 400 kHz allowing more FM stations to be squeezed onto the dial.

TRAI also recommends that the reserve price for frequencies not licenced before should be “reconsidered” and warns that the current pricing structure “could jeopardise the auction”.

The calculation of the reserve price has been strongly criticised by the industry.

The recommendations still need government approval.