Why Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea & Bharti Airtel are against allocation of 700 MHz spectrum to Indian Railways

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Published: July 31, 2019 4:25:06 PM

Reliance Jio is of the view that Indian Railways should not be allowed to offer commercial services such as WiFi and voice and video communication, without obtaining authorization under the Unified Licence.

railwaysMobile operators Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, have strongly opposed the allocation of premium 700 MHz spectrum to Indian Railways for specific services.

Indian Railways spectrum allocation trouble! Mobile operators Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, have strongly opposed the allocation of premium 700 MHz spectrum to Indian Railways for specific services. According to the mobile telephony services industry, the spectrum allotted to the national transporter for captive use should not be utilised for commercial services for passengers like WiFi and internet offerings as such services should be provisioned by companies that hold a valid licence.

According to a PTI report, Reliance Jio is of the view that Indian Railways should not be allowed to offer commercial services such as WiFi and voice and video communication, without obtaining authorization under the Unified Licence. For commercial use, Indian Railways should obtain commercial spectrum via auction like all other interested parties. According to RJio, the suitable allocation for such use should be in the spectrum band of 450-470 MHz.

According to RJio, considering the limited spectrum available in 700 MHz band as well as the fact that this spectrum has immense potential for coverage in wide and rural areas, the Department of Telecom has noted that the spectrum for Indian Railways may be explored beyond this band. It also said that for this purpose, the spectrum in 450-470 MHz seems most suitable. Jio is against the proposal to use the RSTT radio waves for providing WiFi services to passengers as well as using the spectrum for faster data network communication for voice, video, other applications and IoT based services. As these are commercial services, they can be provisioned only under Unified Licence authorisation by the Department of Telecom, it said.

According to Vodafone Idea, if spectrum from 700 MHz band were to be reserved for the national transporter, there will be insufficient spectrum left for 4G and 5G services. The operator further stated that it will jeopardise the growth plans of the telecom operators. Thus, spectrum in 700 MHz band should be allocated and only utilized for international mobile telecom services, it said. Indian Railways may avail the spectrum and utilise it for their captive or internal purposes such as for train positioning, passenger safety, security purposes or requirements, Vodafone Idea added.

Bharti Airtel is also of a similar opinion. The operator said since the 700 MHz band has a huge potential for being utilized for the provision of commercial international mobile telecom services as well as for providing improved coverage to the subscribers, it is recommended that any company desiring to have spectrum in this band should pay the market price in auction. The operator also said that it does not support any provision of internet services by the railways with the use of spectrum assigned for signalling purpose. Airtel is of the view that this would be an unfair competition and direct substitute to the services provided by existing licensed operators who acquire spectrum through auction, the report said.

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