By Mansi Taneja
The department of telecommunications (DoT) plans to ask the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) whether the auctioned spectrum in 2010 for third generation (3G) mobile services and broadband wireless access (BWA) services would fall in the new liberalised regime, as proposed by the regulator in its recommendations on auction of spectrum.
“Trai may clarify about making process for liberalisation of the spectrum won through auction for 3G and BWA,” a DoT committee set up to look into the Trai recommendations for unified licensing, said in a note for Telecom Commission, which is the highest policy making body of the department.
A senior DoT official said since in the new proposed regime, spectrum would be liberalised even for the existing players when their licenses will come for renewal, there has to be a clarity on the already auctioned spectrum. “We will seek queries from Trai on this aspect,” he added.
The commission has also expressed reservations over the proposed liberalised regime in which spectrum usage would be delinked from the service offered. It has opined the ‘liberalised’ usage would need detailed study on use of different technologies in the same band so that issues such as interference, requirement of guard band to ensure co-existence of different technologies are addressed, such as use of long term evolution (LTE) and GSM technologies in adjacent slots in 900 Mhz band by different service operators.
While liberalising the spectrum regime by allowing operators to use spectrum for any services, Trai had on April 23 proposed a high reserve price for auction of spectrum at about Rs 3,622 crore for every megahertz of 1,800 band (for GSM services).
The reserve price for auction of spectrum is close to 10 times higher than what operators had paid in 2008 for acquiring the license at Rs 1,658 crore, which came bundled with 4.4 Mhz of 2G spectrum. The recommended price is also eight per cent higher than what was paid by operators for 3G spectrum auction (base price of Rs 3,500 crore for 5 Mhz) in 2010. For 800 Mhz (for CDMA services) and 900 Mhz band (for GSM services), Trai has proposed reserve price at about Rs 7,244 crore, which is double of that has been kept in 1,800 Mhz band.
The move follows the Supreme Court order on February 2 to cancel 122 new licenses issued in 2008 by the then telecom minister A Raja, who at present is under judicial custody for alleged 2G spectrum scam.
In a recent interview to Business Standard, DoT secretary R Chandrasekhar had said that Trai’s recommendation of liberalisation of spectrum would be a game changer. “The spectrum can be used with any technology and offer any service and can be done over a 20 year period. Technology has changed so much over the last 20 years, imagine how much it would change in the coming 20 years. Technological changes have brought in more efficiency, greater revenue earning potential and wider range of services,” he had said.