DoT will soon finalize broadband spectrum allocation route

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Telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea are looking for auctions while tech players like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc. are opposed to them.

In an effort to usher in larger reforms, the telecommunications department will soon finalize the methodology for allocating a band of spectrum that has the potential to provide high-speed broadband services, especially in remote areas and also better coverage in buildings.

The question is controversial. Should the spectrum in the relevant band be criminalized or should it be allocated through auctions as is the case with spectrum for access services?

Telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea are looking for auctions while tech players like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, etc. are opposed to them.

The spectrum concerned is that of the E (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) and V (-64 GHz) bands, used as backhaul for connectivity where fiber is not available.

Sources said Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw would likely make the final decision on his award methodology soon – auctions or light licenses – following a detailed presentation by Telecommunications Secretary K Rajaraman. The ministry can give legal advice on the need to relocate the Supreme Court for clarity on the methodological track, sources added.

Telecom operators are of the opinion that spectrum in the affected band should be auctioned as failure to do so would result in lost revenue for the government as these bands have a very high commercial value proposition. Telecommunications operators have conveyed the same to the government through their association, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Opposed to their booth, the tech players, who, through their association Broadband India Forum (BIF), have said that spectrum should be delicensed and not auctioned off because it is not the same as spectrum for services. access. Questioning IBOC’s position, the BIF stressed that auctioning spectrum in these bands would go against international best practices.

DoT sources have argued in the past that auctions are excluded, but so is administrative allocation, which means spectrum allocation on a first-first-served basis. What is possible is a light license.

In fact, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which submitted its recommendations to the DoT in August 2014, also favored a lightweight licensing approach and not auctioning this spectrum.

Le Trai had recommended that Bands E and V be opened with “light touch regulation” and that allocation be made on a “link to link basis”. He had said that the E-band carrier should be billed at Rs 10,000 per year per carrier of 250 MHz each and that there should be an initial promotional discount of 50% for three years from the date of award. of the first carrier in that band. In the event of taxation of V-band carriers, he had said that it should be Rs 1,000 per year per carrier of 50 MHz each. He said prices would be reviewed after five years depending on deployment and use.

The argument against auctions is because the government won’t get much by doing it, unlike the spectrum of access. The value of a spectral band depends on various factors, such as the ecosystem, but the most important factor is its propagation characteristics. The lower frequency spectrum is more valuable than the higher frequencies because the radio waves that circulate on the former travel farther, requiring fewer base stations, which means less operating costs.

The spectrum value of E and V bands is low because they have very poor propagation characteristics as they are between 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz (E band) and between 57-64 GHz (V band). These bands are like fiber and can be used for broadband services but not for direct mobile connectivity.

Some analysts say telecom operators are opposing the move to withdraw band E and V licenses over concerns that tech companies could enter the broadband market and use the spectrum whose licenses would be removed. which would be free, to provide services to consumers. . This can lead to a level playing field, as telecom operators have spent billions of rupees to acquire access spectrum in order to offer the same kind of services. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. have in the past indicated their intention to provide broadband using licensed spectrum.

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