Satellite broadband: DoT seeks Trai recommendations on spectrum allocation

By: |
November 12, 2021 7:56 AM

The DoT wants to know whether spectrum should be auctioned or given administratively for satellite communications.

satellite broadbandAccording to sources, the allocation of spectrum for space communications is expected to be looked at along with recommendations for the upcoming spectrum auction. (Representational image)

With firms like Bharti-backed OneWeb and Elon Musk’s SpaceX announcing plans to launch satellite broadband services in the country, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) regarding the allocation of spectrum for space communications.
The DoT wants to know whether spectrum should be auctioned or given administratively for satellite communications.

According to sources, the allocation of spectrum for space communications is expected to be looked at along with recommendations for the upcoming spectrum auction. Trai has already sought details about all available spectrum and how much of the airwaves are being used by government entities and other players, like broadcasters, among others. After getting the information from the DoT, the regulator will start the consultation process for the upcoming auction.

Satellite communications is extremely useful for providing broadband services in remote, hilly and inaccessible regions. It is also the only medium through which communication can be established in disaster zones when normal communication gets affected. In satellite communications, services are provided through low-earth orbit (Leo) satellites, through which a box is suspended over remote and hilly regions that creates WiFi spots, through which broadband services are provided.

There is a clear divide among the industry players regarding allocation of spectrum for satellite communications. While Bharti Group chairman Sunil Mittal has categorically stated that satellite broadband spectrum should not be allocated through auctions but given administratively, telecom firms like Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea are insisting on auction of this spectrum.

Broadband India Forum, an association of technology players like Google, Hughes, etc, had earlier voiced its opposition to auctioning, arguing that spectrum for Satcom is not exclusive to an operator, as is the case with terrestrial spectrum used for mobile services, so auctioning makes no sense.

Satellite communication (Satcom) services is set to gain traction in the near future with major global tech majors like SpaceX and Amazon evincing interest in the Indian market. Bharti Enterprises-backed satellite communications company OneWeb too plans to launch pan-India services by May next year. OneWeb has already got the statutory approvals from the DoT.

While licence can be granted to the company by the DoT anytime, the allocation of spectrum is likely to be done only once Trai and the government decide whether the airwaves need to be auctioned or allocated administratively.

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