Trai proposes companies be allowed to obtain bandwidth from foreign satellites

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August 27, 2021 6:15 AM

According to sources, the regulator will only make its recommendations on spectrum allocation – whether auction or administrative allocation – after getting a reference from the department of telecommunications (DoT).

The move in the short run – if 5G auctions are held next year in March – would help Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in lowering their SUC payment. However, a similar gain may not come through Vodafone Idea's way.The move in the short run – if 5G auctions are held next year in March – would help Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in lowering their SUC payment. However, a similar gain may not come through Vodafone Idea's way.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday recommended various enabling measures to promote the use of satellite connectivity for low bit-rate applications and IoT devices but refrained from suggesting any method for spectrum allocation for such services.

According to sources, the regulator will only make its recommendations on spectrum allocation – whether auction or administrative allocation – after getting a reference from the department of telecommunications (DoT).

As satellite communications services gather pace, there has been a clear divide among the telecom industry regarding spectrum allocation. While companies like Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea want auction as the only way to allocate spectrum, Bharti, which is also the promoter of satellite firm OneWeb, is against auctioning airwaves for such services.

Apart from the spectrum, Trai has covered most of the aspects of satellite connectivity for low bit applications. For instance, it has been proposed that companies should be permitted to obtain bandwidth from foreign satellites and in all the satellite bands to provide services. Currently, companies can’t buy bandwidth from foreign satellites and this has been a key demand of the satellite industry. Trai said the government may publish a list of approved foreign satellites/satellite systems based on their technical and security evaluation, from whom the service licensees may procure the satellite capacities.

For security reasons, the service licensees should be mandated to establish the earth station in India corresponding to the chosen foreign satellite system. To make the services cheaper and affordable, Trai has permitted hiring of foreign capacities for a longer period as per need instead of three-five years, removal of facilitation charges by the government when hiring foreign capacities, leasing the satellite capacity directly from the chosen foreign satellite and reducing the role of intermediaries and removing the prevailing network operations and control centre (NOCC) charges.

It has been recommended that DoT should put in place a comprehensive single window online portal for all the agencies involved in the grant of various approvals like the department of space, DoT etc wherein the companies can place their request and the agencies respond online in a transparent and time-bound manner. All the guidelines, applications forms, fee details, processes, timelines and application status should be made transparently available on the portal.

Satellite-based connectivity for IoT and low bit-rate applications may be provided by the licensees as per the scope of their authorisation using any kind of network topology model. Low bit rate applications and IoT devices require low cost, low power and small size terminals that can effectively perform the task of signal transfer with minimum loss. Many sparsely populated areas with important economic activities suited for IoT related services may not have terrestrial coverage or other forms of connectivity. Therefore, satellites can help bridge this gap by providing coverage to even the most remote areas and will help in fulfilling connect India mission, Trai said.

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