Trai to study long-term spectrum availability

Written by Anandita Singh Mankotia | Rishi Raj | New Delhi, Jun 29 | Updated: Jun 30 2008, 06:03am hrs
In a move that would influence government efforts to grant any more telecom licence, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is conducting an independent study to find out the long-term availability of spectrum, and whether any more players can be accommodated.

According to Trai officials, though the governments policy, endorsed by it as well, favours unlimited players in the telecom services segment, spectrum could be a constraint. Therefore, the regulator has thought it fit to conduct a detailed study and forward the same to the government highlighting spectrum availability and room for any new player.

Spectrum is basically electromagnetic waves on which mobile communication works. The study will be completed in a month, Trai officials told FE.

Trais move comes at a time the department of telecommunications (DoT) has allotted 120 new licences, of the 575 applications it had received from around 14 companies. Last year, when a rush of new applications had begun, DoT had fixed October 1, 2007, as a cut-off date for receiving new applications. However, it granted new licences only to companies that had applied till September 25. The fate of the remaining applications hangs in balance, including AT&Ts.

Though the regulators study is not binding on the government it could surely put the government in a tight spot if it chooses to grant new licences against the spirit of the study.

The new licencees are yet to be accorded spectrum in all the circles for which they have been granted licences.

The grant of new licences were preceded by a fierce debate, with existing service providers demanding that first their needs should be met before new licences were granted.

This is the first time Trai is making such an in-depth study on spectrum availability and the number of players it can accommodate. However, in the past it has warned the government that though the policy allows unlimited players, new applications should only be entertained after making an assessment of spectrum availability for existing operators.

As reported by FE earlier, former Trai chairman MS Verma had through his letter and recommendation in February 2003 to the DoT secretary, categorically stated that, before any fresh licences are considered by DoT, it should ensure adequate spectrum for the existing service providers.

Vermas letter at that time was in response to a DoT reference made in December 2002 to Trai to examine the issue of new licences. Verma had drawn DoTs attention towards its recommendations in 2000, which categorically stated that before any new licence application is treated, care should be taken of the needs of existing service providers in terms of spectrum availability.