The Telecom Commission, the highest policy making body of the Department of Telecommunications, has decided to conduct the auction of 700 MHz spectrum at a later date when the environment is fully developed and that of 900 MHz spectrum by May 2013.
The renewal of licences with operators holding spectrum in the 900 MHz band is due for renewal from November 2014 onwards, and, hence, the auction of 900 MHz spectrum should be completed by May 2013, which would be 18 months prior to licence expiry, according to the minutes of the Commission meeting that took place last week.
The modalities, including reserve price for auction of 700 MHz, will be considered at a future date, which has been indicated as 2014 by the sector regulator. Till that time, DoT will have access to data on an auction-determined price in other bands as well as international trends, the Commission said. For providing data services, 700 MHz or LTE is mainly used. It has also been decided that the auctioneer would be kept for a period of three years to cover the auction of 800/1,800 MHz and 900 MHz which will be completed by May 2013. Besides, the auction of vacation of spectrum by MTNL will also be taken up by DoT.
Though the Commission accepted liberalised spectrum in future, use of technologies other than UMTS/WiMax and LTE apart from existing technologies deployed in the same band will be subject to interference studies by DoT.
The commission said all efforts would be made to include 55 Mhz of spectrum in 1,800 Mhz band, to be vacated by Defence forces in the upcoming auction to ensure sufficient spectrum was available for auction, besides ensuring there was no partial spectrum allotment after auction. “In the absence of this, it may not be possible to refarm and auction the required blocks,” the commission noted.
The auction process has to be completed by August 31, as per the Supreme Court directive.
A minimum of 8 blocks of 1.25 Mhz each (10Mhz) will be put up for auction in all service areas after reserving spectrum for refarming against allocation in 900 Mhz for licence expiring during 2014-16.
A final decision on spectrum pricing will be taken by an empowered group of ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which is scheduled on June 5.