3G spectrum available; DoT still to allocate

New Delhi, Jan 19 | Updated: Jan 20 2007, 05:56am hrs
The department of telecommunications (DoT) does not have to wait for defence to vacate spectrum to start 3G services. This is contrary to the belief that only once the alternate network for defence services is ready will the spectrum be available to DoT.

The 25 Mhz spectrum in 2.1 Ghz band--initially identified for allotment for 3G services as part of the total of 45 Mhz, is free for allocation. It is the remaining 20 Mhz in the 1800 band, meant for GSM operators for 2G services, that can only be released by defence once their alternate wireline network is created by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

For 3G services, Trai had identified spectrum in 450 Mhz, 800 Mhz and 2.1 Ghz. It had estimated an availability of 32.5 Mhz in all over a period of six to nine months.

Sources said that the process for allotting spectrum for 3G services can be started as soon as the department of telecommunications formulates a policy on it. The DoT has formed a committee to look into the recommendations sent by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in September last on allocation and pricing of 3G spectrum. Sources said that the recommendations of the DoT committee are expected shortly.

Though communications and IT minister Dayanidhi Maran had said at the time of Trai submitting its recommendation that 3G services would begin in the country by the second quarter of the next fiscal, there was speculation about its delay because of vacation of spectrum by defence.

Of the 32.5 Mhz identified by Trai for 3G, 25 Mhz was to be made available in 2.1 Ghz, 5Mhz in 450 band and 1.25 Mhz in 800 band. The 450 and 800 band has been reserved for CDMA operators, while 2.1 Ghz can be bid by both CDMA and GSM but for CDMA operators only in case they do not opt for the 450 and 800 bands.

While 450 Mhz is also free, equipment is not immediately available for it. Theres not enough spectrum available in 800 Mhz, which is also being used by the CDMA operators for 2G services. Trai has recommended a reserve price plus auction for 3G spectrum. It has recommended a reserve price of Rs 80 crore for Mumbai, Delhi and category A circles, Rs 40 crore for Chennai, Kolkata and category B circles and Rs 15 crore for category C circles. Going by this, an operator wanting 3G spectrum for all the 23 circles along with spectrum for broadband wireless access will have to pay Rs 1,400 crore just by way of reserve price.

The telecom industry, barring Tata Telservices, has opposed such high reserve price for 3G spectrum stating that this would lead to services being costly and unviable.