Part of airwaves to be auctioned falls in Defence Band

The Department of Telecom’s plan to sell spectrum through an auction could hit rough weather with the Defence forces claiming rights to part of the airwaves being put on the block.

According to the armed forces, part of the spectrum in the 1800 Mhz band falls under the specially created Defence Band and, therefore, cannot be sold to private telecom companies. According to an internal DoT note seen by Business Line, spectrum in 11 circles falls in the Defence Band, created under an agreement between the Telecom Ministry and the armed forces.

Split blocks

If this chunk of spectrum is kept out of the auction it could dampen the outcome of the sale as operators may not get continuous blocks of 5 MHz.

This means the spectrum given to a bid-winning operator post the auction could be split into two or three chunks. Such allocation would make it difficult for operators to offer high-speed data services.

DoT has acknowledged this problem in its note prepared for the Empowered Group of Ministers.

“Ensuring availability of spectrum in the entire service area, wherever it is partial, has uncertainty implications, as it would need vacation of spectrum by Defence in the 1800 Mhz band. Hence, it is proposed that auction of partial spectrum will be decided by the EGoM,” the note stated.

Rajan Mathews, Director-General of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said that telecom companies will not value non-continuous spectrum; so, if the Government wanted telecom companies to bid aggressively, the reserve price has to be reasonable.

Pricing issue

While the EGoM has referred the pricing issue to the telecom regulator, the DoT official said that talks will be initiated with the Defence Ministry to make adequate spectrum available.

(This article was published on June 27, 2013)
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