The Broadband India Forum, which represents tech companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, on Wednesday said the demand for auctioning the V band spectrum would not only impact growth, but also prove negative for rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots and will decelerate digital inclusion. Without naming the COAI, BIF said the lobby group is falsely claiming that the V band spectrum has potential to be used as access spectrum and should be auctioned. BIF wants to clarify that V band has unique technical characteristics of oxygen absorption, coupled with low coverage and high frequency, which makes it ideal for interference management and thus for high gigabit capacity for Wi-Fi. It is best used for secondary access (creation of Wi-Fi hotspots) as well as for short haul backhaul networks.
“For backhaul and Wi-Fi spectrum, the issue of auction does not arise at all, since neither has ever been auctioned in India or anywhere else. Has Wi-Fi spectrum in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz currently permitted for secondary access and backhaul networks been auctioned? Has the microwave spectrum used for backhaul in the 6, 7/8, 13, 15, 18 and 23 GHz bands been ever auctioned? When these have not been auctioned, why is noise now being made for auctioning V-Band?” BIF asked.
Last week, the COAI wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and telecom minister Manoj Sinha urging that spectrum in E & V band should not be delicensed. BIF president TV Ramachandran said, “Any recommendation to auction it (V band) is hypocritical, self-seeking and grossly anti-consumer. Such a retrograde move stifles innovation, destroys the business case around both conventional telcos as well as the new age digital players rather than improving incumbent financial viability.”
Attacking the COAI on its comment that delicensing would lead to a huge loss for the government in the form of revenues from licence fees, spectrum usage charge and value of spectrum, BIF said on the contrary, increase in number of Wi-Fi hotspots and the resultant explosive growth in access and backhaul traffic would lead to huge revenue growth.
BIF said India’s mobile broadband penetration was a meagre 31% at the end of 2017, still considerably behind many of its peers. At present, there are about 36,000 commercial hotspots, as compared to China (6.1 million), Indonesia and Mexico (over 1.65 lakh each). Developed markets such as the US, the UK and France have about 30% of their total public data offloaded to public Wi-Fi networks as opposed to India’s 16%.
India needs over 80 lakh hotspots with a view to reach the global level of one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 150 people, according to an Assocham-Deloitte joint study. Spectrum availability in Indian metros is about a tenth of the same in cities in developed countries. This has put a major roadblock in providing high-speed data services.