The Indian authorities are set to charge operators a one-time fee for spectrum they hold beyond a specified allocation, with companies given the option of surrendering any excess if they choose, India’s Economic Times reports.

It has been widely suggested that this could raise at least IRN270 billion (US$5.1 billion) for the government, dependent on the prices paid in a separate spectrum auction set to take place next month.

The proposal will see GSM operators able to hold a 4.4MHz allocation, and CDMA operators 2.5MHz, without an additional charge.

Apparently, state-owned operators BSNL and MTNL will be the worst affected, followed by the largest private operator, Bharti Airtel. Reliance Communications, Vodafone India, Tata Teleservices and Idea Cellular will also face bills.

The Economic Times said that the finer details of this – including the date of implementation and timeframe for payment –will be finalised in the future. Fees may be backdated to 2008, some sources said.

Critics have said that this amounts to charging operators retrospectively for licences that have already been paid for, through an initial licence payment and usage fees.

The paper also said that the Indian government is set to refund fees paid for the 122 licences issued in 2008, which were cancelled amid scandal earlier this year.

Operators paid IRS16.5 billion (US$313 million) for these permits.

This will be “adjusted” against the fees to be paid by operators for spectrum when it is re-issued next month – although some companies which previously held licences have said they do not intend to participate again.

The Economic Times reported that Kapil Sibal, India’s telecoms minister, had said that a group of ministers had “tentatively” resolved all of the issues, and would move the matter to Cabinet next week for finalisation.