Govt may take spectrum refarming route for 3G

Written by Nikita Upadhyay | Nikita Upadhyay | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 9 2009, 05:52am hrs
India may take the route of refarming spectrum in the 700mhz band (now being used by Doordarshan for digital transmission in four metros) for the upcoming 3G auctions. Spectrum scarcity and maximising the availability of usable band are the cited reasons for the same, say industry veterans.

The International Telecommunications Unions designation of certain 700mhz frequencies as 3G and 4G spectrum, combined with aggressive plans by the US operators to deploy LTE in this band, could have significant implications for Indian wireless space as well.

Recently, the telecom regulator asked industry players to share their views on spectrum trading, sharing perpetuity of licences, uniform licence fees, spectrum assignment, spectrum pricing, spectrum management and M&A issues by November 12. Telecom sector views on the future roadmap for 700mhz found a special mention in the consultation paper issued by Trai.

As per the analysts, the band is best suited for the implementation of 4G services and would be a positive step towards future. However, it will be apt for the transfer of data services than carrying voice traffic. According to the regulator, the band can be used for wireless broadband, digital terrestrial television, high definition TV, mobile television and data broadcasting services.

It further says that the band is ideally suited for rural broadband delivery due to the low-capex ecosystem offered by the band. Even for LTE, 700mhz would lead to 70% cheaper proposition than LTE on a 2.1 ghz band.

In March 2008, the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), closed the long-awaited auction of 700mhz spectrum for implementation of 4G technology. The auction raised a record total of $19.6 billion with Verizon and AT&T dominating the bidding and paying a combined $16.3 billion for spectrum.

AT&T began building its 700mhz spectrum position in November 2007 with the purchase of 12mhz of previously awarded national 700mhz spectrum from Aloha Partners for $2.5 billion.

Emphasising on the proper use of the 700mhz band for its better propagation characteristics and also for the fact that the band is readily available for use, the regulator has sought to know when and how the band should be allotted between the various competitive services.

Hitherto, frequency earmarking for this band has been done in favour of national broadcaster, Doordarshan for digital transmission in four metros, the operator is yet to launch commercial services on this band.

Some government agencies and PSU such as BSNL are operating some point-to-point microwave links in 610-806 mhz band.