DoT says no to releasing TV White Space spectrum, clarifies it is for experiments

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018


Will not de-license 470MHz-582 MHz band for commercial use

In a setback to Microsoft, the Department of Telecom has decided not to allocate 470-582 MHz spectrum band for commercial deployment of TV White Space (TVWS) technology.

The DoT has also taken a view that this spectrum band will not be de-licensed and the Centre will decide on pricing in the future.

The spectrum band has been assigned to various educational and research-based organisations with the sole purpose of carrying out of experiments in the TVWS technology.

“It is clarified that the frequency authorisations are not for regular/commercial use of TVWS in India. It may be further noted that the frequency allocation for TVWS experiment has not been made with any reference to any particular technology,” stated a letter from DoT to the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI).

Low-cost internet

Microsoft has been pushing for deployment of TVWS technology to enable low-cost broadband internet in India. White space refers to spectrum allocated for broadcasting services but which remains unutilised. This spectrum can be used with low-power devices, without causing interference to the broadcasting station.

The company is undertaking a number of pilots, including in Harisal village in Maharashtra, Srikakulam (Andhra Pradesh) and Varanasi. However, unlike in the US, in India, this spectrum band is completely unutilised and no broadcaster is using it for TV services. Microsoft had requested the Centre to allow access to the spectrum to offer broadband services in India. The argument was that the spectrum is largely unutilised currently, is not even attractive to current telecom providers, and can therefore be used to offer low-cost connectivity to rural India.

The DoT has, however, taken a view that the frequency band could be used for other technologies and will not be limited to TVWS. It further said that the 470- 698 MHz band or part of thereof will not be de-licensed and will be put to auction in future when the ecosystem is developed for this band.

Earlier, the COAI had urged the DoT to inform mobile operators in advance of any government decision to de-license television broadcast airwaves in the 470-698 MHz band before releasing the auction rules for sale of 4G airwaves in the coveted 700 MHz band. In its letter, the COAI has objected to de-licensing the 470-698 MHz band arguing that it would trigger market distortions and cause considerable losses to the national exchequer 

Setback to Microsoft

While this is a setback to Microsoft, the DoT’s position may not close the doors for TVWS technology.

Microsoft could still convince any Internet Service Provider or a telecom company to use it after buying spectrum whenever it is auctioned.

Published on June 16, 2016

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