Commercial operators likely to be disappointed

Thomas K. Thomas

New Delhi, July 5

The Defence establishment has sought an exclusive spectrum band for deploying Wi-Max technology in its communication network. The armed forces also sought radio frequency for third generation (3G) network, for high-speed data transmission.

The demand is likely to create a further crunch for commercial cellular operators who are in fact banking on the Defence vacating some of the radio frequency it is currently using. Lack of adequate spectrum, especially for high-speed broadband services like 3G and Wi-Max, result in poor quality for users.

Response to TRAI

The defence has made these demands in response to the paper on spectrum allocation for 3G services from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. "Defence is likely to use the Wi-Max service to a large extent in its tactical role. Therefore, it is essential to plan a complete band for Defence at this stage itself, to facilitate better planning for the Defence, service providers and spectrum managers. Defence should also be treated as a service provider of this service and two carriers of WCDMA (Wide Band Code Division Multiple Access a 3G technology used by GSM operators) should be reserved for them."

To tide over the resulting shortage in spectrum for commercial use, the armed forces have told TRAI that the number of mobile operators offering 3G services should be restricted to a maximum of four.

The Department of Space has also made similar demands, asking TRAI to allocate 3G spectrum only after ensuring that it did not impact any of the satellite-based communication programmes approved by the Government. The DoS has also said that it would be difficult to free spectrum in the 3G band, which it is already using for various projects.

In a bid to facilitate the vacation of spectrum for commercial use, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) has suggested setting up a non-lapsable `Spectrum Relocation Fund' on the lines of the USO Fund. The Government has already approved a Rs 1,000-crore dedicated wire-line network for the Defence forces to free 45 Mhz radio frequency used by them.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 6, 2006)
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