Identifies spectrum for 4G services; eight firms to be accommodated; discussion paper to be out by Aug and recommendations by Oct.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has identified at least six blocks of 20 MHz spectrum each which can be auctioned to telecom companies for offering 4G services. 4G enables data speeds of 5-12 mbps on mobiles and is many times faster than 3G.
The spectrum identified includes the 700 Mhz band as well as the 2.5-2.6 gigahertz band. This means the government will be able to offer 4G spectrum to eight companies, leading to tough competition.
This exercise is part of Trai’s plan to come out with recommendations on 4G auctions by October. A consultation paper on the road map is expected by August.
Two spectrum blocks in the 2,300 Mhz band have already been given for broadband wireless access (BWA) — with Reliance Industries getting a pan-India licence in collaboration with the HFCL group. There are around 12 2G players and five 3G players per circle.
The 4G road map which Trai is working on envisages allowing voice-over-internet telephony between mobile and landline networks. At present, internet calls are allowed between PC and PC, but without any connectivity to a PSTN network.
Permitting voice-over-internet calls will open a new market, especially for companies such as Reliance Industries, which have bought a pan-India BWA licence but cannot offer voice calls until they tie up with a 2G operator. At present, they can offer only data services.
Trai is also planning to come out with a new policy for value-added services which may lead to sweeping changes in the telecom sector. It will hold consultations on key issues such as whether value-added services, like other telecom services, should be bought under a licence regime.
Consultations will also be held on the need for Trai to intervene in bilateral revenue-share agreements between telecom and value-added service companies. Many software developers complain that telecom companies squeeze them for margins.
It is also discussing the need to create intermediaries to offer value-added services solutions to all telecom companies (become aggregators of such services) based on a transparent revenue-share model. Right now, telecom companies sign bilateral agreements with value-added service providers.
Trai says about 108 Mhz spectrum is available in the 700 Mhz band. However, it says anything between 60 MHz and 84 Mhz has been taken by government agencies and is used in areas such as analog TV transmission and defence.
Trai is of the opinion that this band should be kept for 4G applications. It wants an earlier plan to keep a part of this band for digital broadcasting and mobile TV to be changed.
In the 2.5 gigahertz band, out of 190 Mhz, 150 Mhz is with the Department of Space, which has in turn given it for broadcast and mobile satellite services. Trai is of the opinion that 80 Mhz to 120 Mhz in this band can be vacated or refarmed for broadband wireless services.