India’s Telecom Commission approved a proposal from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to ease the country’s spectrum holding restrictions, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

In November 2017, TRAI proposed relaxing a cap preventing an operator from holding more than 50 per cent of the spectrum in a given band in a specific service area, but wants to add a cap on holding more than 50 per cent of the combined spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz bands in a single circle. The country has 22 service areas (known as circles).

TRAI also suggested increasing the overall spectrum ownership cap in a service area from 25 per cent to 35 per cent. The proposal, which needs to be approved by the country’s cabinet, is aimed at fostering additional consolidation in the telecoms sector, which is struggling with high debt and falling tariffs.

Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (pictured), told ET: “We welcome the decision to increase the overall spectrum cap, as it will facilitate mergers and acquisitions in the sector.”

An increase in the cap would benefit Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which in March 2017 agreed to merge to create the country’s largest mobile player. The $23.2 billion merger faces a number of regulatory hurdles.