Surajeet Das Gupta & Ishita Russell
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is working on sweeping changes in the spectrum distribution policy to allow operators freedom to use spectrum for the service they choose to offer customers.Allocation of spectrum, the radio frequencies that enable mobile communications, is currently closely linked to a particular service.For instance, operators with licences for second generation (2G) services receive spectrum in the 900 MHz or 1,800 MHz bands, for 3G services the allocation is in the 2.1 gigahertz (GHz) band and broadband wireless services get spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band.The regulator has now suggested that all spectrum will be auctioned as opposed to the current policy of bundling it with a 2G licence. A beginning has been made with the auctioning of spectrum for 3G services, which is due later this year.Trai has also suggested that licences for any telecom service should be auctioned as opposed to the current policy, where it is given on a first-come-first-served basis.The new policy is expected to be ready by the end of December this year.“We believe spectrum should be universally auctioned, and spectrum allocation should be agnostic and not linked to a service, and the choice of its usage should be left to the operator,” a senior Trai official told Business Standard.“What it means is that if I get spectrum through the auction process, say, in the 900 MHz band I can use it for whatever I want — for 2G, broadcasting or 3G services, it is up to me,” said a senior executive of the Cellular Operators Association of India.Operators said they can offer different services within the same spectrum but should be allowed to make the choice. For instance, they say the 700 MHz to 900 MHz bands can be used for mobile TV, 2G and 3G services. The 2.5 gigahertz band can be used either for 3G services or for broadband wireless services also. Trai has also proposed the concept of “digital dividend” or re-farming spectrum from broadcasters. Terrestrial TV broadcasters (mainly Doordarshan) have spectrum on the 450 to 700 Mhz band. Being on an analog platform, however, terrestrial broadcasters do not utilise spectrum efficiently.The regulator is now pushing for broadcasters to go on the digital platform to improve spectrum efficiency.This will enable these broadcasters to return scarce spectrum in the band — because they will require only a fraction of the spectrum that they are currently using. This spectrum can be reallocated to mobile TV operators or even to 2G or 3G mobile telecom operators.
6 months ago