DoT, defence ministry work out spectrum swapping route

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New Delhi | Published: November 14, 2015 12:58:46 AM

The department of telecommunications (DoT) and the defence ministry are understood to have worked out the modalities for swapping 1900 megahertz...

The department of telecommunications (DoT) and the defence ministry are understood to have worked out the modalities for swapping 1900 megahertz (MHz) band of 2G spectrum with 2100 MHz of 3G spectrum, ahead of the telecom commission’s (TC) meeting to take a call on the quantum of spectrum that has to be put up for auction by March 2016.

The government plans to auction 15 MHz of 2100 MHz band of 3G spectrum across 22 telecom circles — totalling 330 MHz of 3G airwaves — in the next round of spectrum auctions, which is expected to be conducted sometime during the end of FY16. This year in March, it had auctioned 5 MHz each in the 17 circles (totalling 85 MHz). Once the telecom commission gives its approval, the swapping of 1900 MHz band of 2G spectrum with 2100 MHz of 3G spectrum would start between private telecom companies and the armed forces. By way of swapping, at least 330 MHz of 1900 MHz band — currently with the DoT — will be swapped with equal quantum of 2100 MHz, which is with the defence ministry.

At least 26.4 MHz of 1800 MHz band of spectrum, along with 20 MHz of 800 MHz band of spectrum and 12.4 MHz of 900 MHz band of spectrum of telecom companies, are expiring in early 2017. In the 1800 MHz band, 4.4 MHz each of RCom’s Gujarat circle, TTSL’s AP circle, TTSL’s Maharashtra, TTSL’s Mumbai circle, HFCL’s Punjab circle and 2.2 MHz of MTNL’s Mumbai circle are expiring early 2017.

On the other hand, the DoT and the defence ministry have decided to put on hold 5 MHz of 1800 megahertz (MHz) spectrum in the 1710-1785 MHz band available in all the 22 telecom circles in the country (totalling 110 MHz), which has to be harmonised. Sources said there are some overlaps and unused spectrum scattered amongst private telcos and armed forces that could be effectively used through harmonisation. Similarly, the government is unlikely to auction 35 MHz of 700 MHz band of spectrum. The 700 MHz band airwaves is considered more efficient than any of the bands — 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz — allotted in India so far and have better propagation characteristics, which means better coverage and faster data speed.

Under the annual Budget for financial year 2015-16, the government expects revenue of Rs 42,866 crore ($7 billion) from the telecom sector, including from auctions of its airwaves. The government garnered R1.1 lakh crore through auction held in March this year.

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