The department of telecommunications (DoT) may look at liberalising spectrum sharing guidelines before the auctions take place next year. Spectrum sharing, which currently allows operators to share spectrum only within a band wherein both parties hold spectrum, may be done away with. Sharing would be allowed across bands, sources said.
Around the time spectrum sharing was allowed and guidelines formulated, there were two technologies — GSM and CDMA — so sharing was not possible across technologies.
This distinction no longer remains. Secondly, the government did not favour leasing of spectrum and so sharing across bands was barred. Official sources pointed out these concerns, relating to sharing, are no longer relevant.
Currently, two operators can share spectrum if both of them own spectrum in the same band, say 900 Mhz or 2500 Mhz. If one party does not have spectrum in these bands, it is not allowed to take it from another on a shared basis because that’s seen as leasing. In such cases, spectrum can be traded, which means sold from one party to another.
If the sharing guidelines are liberalised and sharing across bands allowed then there can be better utilisation of spectrum. Operators who are sitting on good quantum of spectrum but are not utilising it fully can look at sharing options as it will also lead to revenues.
According to SP Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, “The government should liberalise spectrum sharing and allow sharing across bands. The technological distinctions between service providers is long gone and this reform will help the industry and the government has nothing to lose”.
Kochhar said that the government should now look at spectrum reforms in a holistic manner, which should include spectrum pricing, spectrum sharing, and allocation of backhaul spectrum. “These issues should be looked into before the 5G auctions take place so that the back-end and front-end spectrum capacity matches for optimal output.