Industry bodies BIF and COAI fight over delicensing of E and V bands

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October 1, 2020 1:40 AM

The E and V bands are considered optimum for providing mobile broadband backhaul while its utility for 5G services is also evolving.

BIF said V band spectrum can be used to provide wi-fi access, within a building or within a campus.BIF said V band spectrum can be used to provide wi-fi access, within a building or within a campus.

The issue of delicensing E and V spectrum bands has divided industry associations with COAI, which includes telecom operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio as its members strongly opposing any such move while Broadband India Forum (BIF), which has Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Hughes, among others, as its members, supporting delicensing and light-touch regulation regime.

Incidentally, Reliance Jio is a member of both the associations.

On September 28, COAI had written to communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, reiterating its opposition to delicensing of spectrum in the bands, stating that doing so will lead to loss of revenue to government as these bands have a very high commercial value proposition. The telecom body had said market determined price through open auction will ensure huge revenue to the government which has to be foregone in case of light-touch regulation or delicensing.

Reacting to the COAI letter, BIF has now written to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash, opposing auctioning of spectrum in these bands as it goes against international best practices and recommendations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

BIF has said over 70 countries across the world including the US, the UK, Korea, Japan, Australia among others, have already opened up the 60 Ghz (V band) for delicensed usage. Also, Trai in its recommendations in August 2014, had said spectrum in both E band (71-76 Ghz and 81-86 Ghz) as well as V band (57-64 Ghz) should be opened up. Trai had further reiterated on November 17, 2015, its recommendations for delicensing of the V band in response to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) back reference. With respect to E band, Trai had proposed light-touch regulation.

The E and V bands are considered optimum for providing mobile broadband backhaul while its utility for 5G services is also evolving. So far, the government has not taken a call around allocation methodology of spectrum in these bands.

Regarding COAI’s viewpoint that any method of allocation other than transparent auction for the bands is legally untenable and amounts to contempt of Supreme Court, BIF has said E and V bands are microwave spectrum and should not be compared to mobile access spectrum. “The Supreme Court’s ruling of 2012 cancelling allocation to 122 licences was only done to holders of mobile access spectrum… microwave spectrum allocations and licenses to the mobile licenses were not cancelled,” BIF said in the letter.

BIF said V band spectrum can be used to provide wi-fi access, within a building or within a campus. It is not used for providing public mobile access.

The telecom operators have been opposing the move to delicense the bands as they fear that internet-led companies may enter into the broadband market and use the delicensed spectrum, which comes free of cost, to provide services to consumers. This may lead to a non-level playing field as telecom operators have spent billions of rupees in acquiring access spectrum to offer the same kind of services. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, among others, have shown intent to provide broadband using delicensed spectrum.

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