DoT seeks TRAI’s view on spectrum re-farming

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 29, 2012

Key question: Should operators be allowed to retain spectrum in perpetuity

Cross talk on the issue of spectrum re-farming has forced the Department of Telecom to turn to the telecom regulator to try and find a solution to the issue.

The DoT has asked TRAI to give its views on whether incumbent operators should be allowed to retain any part of spectrum at the time of re-farming and licence renewal at the end of the 20-year licence period.

The views of the TRAI have been sought again because there is no consensus among the various Government agencies on how to go about dealing with the issue. The DoT wants to take away 900 MHz band from incumbent players and give the 1800 MHz band in lieu. The Department of Economic Affairs has raised concerns about this approach to permit operators to retain any part of the spectrum.

The DEA had said that such an action could give the impression that operators have right to hold on to the spectrum in-perpetuity. The DEA had argued that all spectrum, both 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, should be taken away from operators and they should be asked to participate in auction if they wanted to continue services after the 20-year licence period gets over.

The Planning Commission wants the entire issue reviewed on grounds that although everyone agreed that spectrum should be re-farmed no one had thought about how to execute it. The Planning Commission has said that there was no consultation that had happened with the industry on this matter.

On the other hand, TRAI, in 2010, had said that operators be allowed to retain up to 10 MHz of spectrum at the time of renewal. This was approved by the Government and was announced this year in February. However, the DoT is caught in a bind as it also wants to de-link future spectrum allocation from the licence.

The DoT has now sought TRAI’s view on specific points, including the feasibility and desirability of various re-farming options and whether the TRAI’s earlier recommendations issued in 2010 continue to be relevant. TRAI has been told to give full analysis of the various options before the next meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers.

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Published on October 29, 2012
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