Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government will not kill innovation and technology and is open to allowing Microsoft to start only on a pilot project basis, its White Space spectrum. The minister however pointed out that this cannot be construed as government’s approval as the final decision on its operation and use will be subject to policy decision which the government will take after carrying out all due diligence.
Following Microsoft’s involvement and Satya Nadella’s announcement about connecting 5 lakh villages using White Space technologies—for which free unlicensed spectrum is being sought—the telecom companies and other stakeholders in India have been anxious about the government policy in this regard.
Telcos have urged government not to give any preferential treatment to Microsoft as spectrum is a national asset and must be given only through the auction route.
The government has the option of using the huge quantum of unused ‘white space’ spectrum for expanding broadband coverage in rural areas, although this could take a few more years. White Space spectrum refers to the small gaps or empty spaces unused in otherwise heavily-occupied broadcasting spectrum band.
Unlike the developed economies, India has only public terrestrial broadcaster, Doordarshan, in the 470 MHz to 590 MHz band. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has not internationally ratified the 470-590 MHz spectrum band for commercial use, citing differences between countries.
Late last month, representatives from India led by officials from the department of telecommunications (DoT) at the World Radio Communication Conference (WRC) in Geneva had pitched for inclusion of White Space Spectrum for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) service area.
But ITU said that the white space spectrum is a bit premature for use and lacked international acceptance, dashing hopes, at least for now, for the Indian government for judiciously using this band of spectrum for broadband expansion.