Next on the block: 4G mobile spectrum

Written by Rishi Raj | Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: May 12 2011, 06:52am hrs
India has taken a step closer to high-speed 4G data services, with the Union I&B ministry agreeing to vacate 700 MHz band spectrum that is currently under the control of the ministry. Historically, this band is used gobally for broadcast services but is increasingly being allocated to mobile operators for providing 4G telecom services.

This follows a long sparring between the telecom department and the I&B ministry for the control over this band. The I&B ministry was not willing to vacate this band. However, revenue considerations seem to have worked in favour of the the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The lower the spectrum band, the greater its efficiency and consequently, greater the revenues it can fetch. Last April, the government had auctioned 2.3 GHz spectrum for broadband wireless access, raking in R38,543 crore. Auctioning the 700 MHz spectrum for 4G services could potentially earn much more. I&B ministry vacating the spectrum will open it for auctions by DoT.

The I&B ministry did not want to vacate the 700 MHz band since it is allotted to Doordarshan and also because it wants to start mobile TV services. However, sources said that the I&B ministry has constituted a sub-committee to review the 700 MHz band and take a re-look at the demands of Doordarshan and the feasibility of freeing it for broadband services by mobile operators.

The spectrum requirements of Doordarshan and mobile TV will be reviewed as part of the exercise to establish exactly how much spectrum can be freed up for other essential requirements, a senior Doordarshan official told FE.

The I&B ministry has envisaged 96 MHz of spectrum allocation for mobile TV services, a policy that is still far from final. The plan was to allocate 8 MHz spectrum to six mobile operators (4 private, 2 Doordarshan) each in a city after auctioning. However, there is an option of reducing this number by two (1 private, 1 Doordarshan), which will free up 32 MHz. Finding another block of 8 MHz will not be difficult, a source in the government said.

Earlier this year, Doordarshan had conducted an internal audit of its current and future spectrum requirements and informed the I&B ministry of requirements inclusive of the 96 MHz which will be reserved for mobile TV services.