TRAI asks govt to free up additional spectrum before February 2015 auction

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is insisting that while it has asked the government to make sure enough spectrum is released before the auction scheduled for February, it has not recommended postponement of the same. In a report published on November 24, the body has noted that the 1.2MHz block of 900MHz spectrum belonging to BSNL must be retrieved from the state-run company and air waves in the 2100MHz band should be made available for commercial use.

Only recently, major network operators including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance were seen foretelling the occurrence of all sorts of gloomy consequences if the upcoming telecom spectrum auction would not be delayed. In response to a Department of Telecom (DoT) letter regarding such issues, TRAI made several important suggestions including the need to put the idle air waves in the 1800MHz band which is earmarked for defense, up for bidding.

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About a week ago, DoT and the Defense Ministry apparently came to a resolution on the spectrum swapping issue, with the latter agreeing to give up its block in the 2100MHz band. But there’s still the matter of 1800MHz lying around uselessly, a potential goldmine for the Indian government. All the problems likely to arise at the February 23 auction are not limited to availability of air waves, even though this is being stressed upon by various parties.

Also see: DoT and defense ministry finally come to agreement on spectrum swap

TRAI is also concerned about the non-availability of spectrum in contiguous form. Without this, inefficient use of air waves, lower license fees and lesser revenue from spectrum usage charges become big issues. The body recommends that telecom service providers be allowed to carry out frequency rearrangement in the same band, from within the assignments made to the licensees, and this should be permitted amongst all licensees.

In conclusion, TRAI feels the Indian government must step in to ensure that spectrum in 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands is auctioned off simultaneously in order to prevent a crunch situation.