The department of telecom (DoT) is planning a first-rank, first-served process for the allocation of contiguous (continuous without a break) radiowaves in the 1,800 Mhz band to operators in the upcoming January spectrum auctions. Under the new process, bidders would be ranked based on the specific time of placing a bid, with higher rank holders being automatically eligible for spectrum allocation.
Most of the spectrum being put up for sale in the next round of auctions in the 1,800-Mhz band is not available in contiguous blocks of 5MHz since these radiowaves were made available from the cancelled 122 licences issued to new 2G players in 2008.
In only a few areas spectrum is continuous. While non-contiguous spectrum works for offering voice services, higher technologies need the airwaves to be available without a break. The need for contiguous spectrum becomes even more important since the spectrum being sold is liberalised that would essentially allow the winner to use it for any technology – 2G, 3G or 4G.
During an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) meeting held last month, it was opined by the members that the “auctioneer may suggest an objective parameter for inter-se ranking, for allocating contiguous spectrum while having one stage auction only”.
The IMC also suggested that “time-stamps of bids as a parameter” could be opted as an option. The auctioneer has been asked to provide details in this regard.
Earlier, the inter-ministerial committee had taken a view that such contiguous blocks of airwaves could be sold at a premium.
That option has, however, been discarded as the IMC members decided that charging a premium for contiguous spectrum “would cause problems in future, in view of the likely government policies for spectrum trading/swapping”.
The option of holding a two-stage auction, wherein the first stage would be for price discovery and second for getting contiguous spectrum with a premium, was also discussed and discarded in the October meeting of the IMC.
The inter-ministerial committee includes members from DoT, Planning Commission, wireless planning wing, department of industrial policy and promotion and the department of economic affairs.