GSM players body suggests taking 15 MHz of air wave from Defence Ministry

With Reliance Industries-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm all set to offer voice and data service across India, rival GSM players have run to the Government seeking more spectrum for third generation (3G) technology based mobile services.

GSM operators, including Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone, won 3G spectrum in the 2010 auction, but none has a pan-India footprint. Also, they got only 5 MHz each in the 2,100 MHz band, which is insufficient to provide high speed data services such as video streaming or live television.

So, while the GSM players have national coverage when it comes to voice, they do not have the bandwidth for pan-India data play. On the other hand, Reliance Jio has 20 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 2,300 MHz band which will allow it to offer high quality data service. And, now, with the Government allowing Internet firms to offer voice, Reliance Jio is square on the GSM players’ turf.

In a letter to the Department of Telecom and the telecom regulator, the Cellular Operators Association of India said that “Insufficient 3G spectrum in the 2,100 MHz band will not only hurt the growth of mobile broadband services, but will result in fragmented spectrum allocations. This will prevent operators from establishing a pan-India 3G footprint, leading to suboptimal use of scarce and valuable spectrum.”

The GSM operators’ lobby group said that the DoT can take 15 MHz of 3G spectrum from the Ministry of Defence as part of the agreement already signed. Under this deal, the Defence Ministry had agreed to vacate some spectrum bands in return for an exclusive optic fibre network for the armed forces.

The COAI said that if this spectrum is not auctioned soon, then it will be the end of the road for 3G players as no other spectrum band has a better ecosystem in terms of cheaper phones and user devices.

Thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 19, 2013)
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