Small chunks of 900 MHz, 1800 MHz bands reserved for indigenous technologies

The Department of Telecom has asked the telecom regulator to give its views on allocating spectrum to local manufacturers that want to deploy indigenous technologies.

The DoT has asked TRAI to give recommendations on the method of allocation, pricing and eligibility criteria for accessing this spectrum.

Small chunks of spectrum have been reserved in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz band to be exclusively used for developing indigenous telecommunication networks. This was done under the National Frequency Allocation Plan to encourage local manufacturers.

Internal note

According to an internal DoT note, one such Indian company- Coral Telecom – has approached the Government to use this spectrum to set up a private GSM network.

A private GSM network supports mobility requirements within a large campus. It can also be deployed in rural areas for providing cost-effective services through low-powered scalable networks.

According to Coral’s Web site, these portable and easy-to-use systems cater to emergency services for rapid deployment of GSM network. There are other applications for the Railways and Defence forces too which will make Coral a niche mobile operator in specific areas.

While the spectrum has been set aside for such applications, the allocation policy has not been formulated. Pricing of this spectrum will be crucial. While the objective of reserving the spectrum was to promote local equipment manufacturers, a high price could put the airwaves beyond the reach of most of the Indian companies.

However, any reduction in the price could attract criticism that the Government is giving away natural resources cheaply.

“This will stimulate the creation of Indian IPR that will only reduce our dependence on foreign companies, but will also reduce our import bill on telecoms gear, that may otherwise exceed the petroleum import bill in the next five years. This is a minor contribution that we must do for the sake of technology creation which will help us meet our national security interests by being self sufficient,” the Telecom Ministry had said in an internal note while pushing the case for reserving spectrum.

Existing operators

But existing operators are opposed to the idea. “Once Government has decided to auction spectrum then how can you allocate spectrum at an administered price for indigenous technologies. This will create another scam," said an industry representative. Existing operators also use the same spectrum bands but are now being asked to pay market price.

However, local equipment makers led by the industry association Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association have been pushing the Government to expedite the allocation process

Thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 27, 2012)
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