TRAI sticks to auctioning all spectrum in 700-MHz band

700-MHz band is a sought after band for wireless internet across the world due to its higher efficiency

GN Bureau | April 19, 2016


#telecome industry   #spectrum   #TRAI   #egov  
TRAI chairman RS Sharma
TRAI chairman RS Sharma

Telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that entire spectrum in the 700-MHz band should be put to auction. Keeping in mind the growing consumer base for internet and the government’s ambitious Bharat Net programme (aims to provide broadband connectivity to all panchayats in the country) the regulatory body has recommended putting entire 700-MHz band on auction, despite the opposition from industry sector.

“The authority is of the opinion that entire spectrum in 700-MHz band is required to be made available for commercial use without any delay. Accordingly, the authority reiterates its earlier recommendation that entire available spectrum (2x35MHz) in the 700-MHz band should be put to auction in the upcoming auction,” TRAI said in its recommendation papers released on Monday.

Arguing that the environment is not yet ready to host an advance technology, the move has come against the telecom industry’s demand.
Earlier, director, cellular operators association of India (COAI), Rajan Mathews said in a statement, "It would be difficult for telecom players to absorb the high level of 700-MHz band pricing on pan-India basis, given their already stressed balance sheets," he said.

"For 700-MHz band, a pricing four times the reserve price of 1800-MHz is very ambitious, especially when the ecosystem is not fully developed; the potential benefits may need significant investment and lead time before being realised.”

700-MHz band is a sought after band for LTE deployment (wireless internet) across the world due to its efficiency and higher penetration inside buildings. Due to lower frequency, it provides wider coverage which reduces number of towers required for setting up the network, and thus significantly cuts down capital expenditure involved in the process.

In 42 countries commercial networks have been deployed in this band.

However, opposing the concerns of the industry, TRAI is of the view that “there will be an accelerated deployment of device eco-system due to ‘economies of scale’ that will be delivered on account of large subscriber base.”

“Presently, India is way behind in the broadband penetration and the internet speeds in the world and 700-MHz band can prove to be a vital band for proliferation of broadband in the country,” TRAI said in its statement.

The industry also said that putting 700 MHz band on auction would lead to non-utilisation of the spectrum.

TRAI, however, maintained that with “subscriber base has widened, traffic has increased manifold particularly the data traffic due to broadband wireless subscribers tripling in the past two years”, apart from “smartphone penetration and availability of relevant content, network speeds”, availability of adequate spectrum would only cater to the growing demand, hence enhancing users’ telecom experience.

The regulatory body further said that holding back the band would eventually lead to “non-utilization of this scarce natural resource for that period, though it has the potential to be reused and reallocated.”

Moreover, TRAI also suggested the department of telecommunications (DoT) to take strict action against telecom players over non-utilisation of spectrum.

Read full statement here


 

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