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73% of respondents in favor of allocating satcom spectrum without auction

About three-fourth respondents including Starlink, Amazon, OneWeb have advocated for allocation of satellite communication spectrum through an administrative process and not through auction, according to space sector industry body ISpA.

On Trai’s consultation paper, telecom operators Reliance Jio and Vodafone have opposed allocation of spectrum for satellite communication through an administrative process citing the Supreme Court order, which declared that the right to use such spectrum can only be transferred through a transparent auction.

However, Bharti Airtel has backed the demand of satellite companies to allocate spectrum through administrative processes. Bharti Group holds a majority stake in OneWeb.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on the Assignment of Spectrum for Space-Based Communication.

According to Indian Space Association team research, about 73 per cent or 47 of 64 respondents have advocated for allocation of spectrum through an administrative process.

“The overwhelming majority, which includes all space players, strongly supports the administrative allocation of the satellite spectrum. This reinforces ISpA’s viewpoint. Our suggestions are in line with global best practices, which have enabled the successful adoption of space-based communication technology,” ISpA Director General AK Bhatt told PTI.

Amazon said that it has plans to launch Project Kuiper, a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) constellation consisting of over 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) that will provide high capacity, high-speed, low latency broadband services to residential customers, schools, and businesses, including those in remote communities in India.

While pushing for allocation of spectrum through an administrative process, the company submitted that the Supreme Court judgement does not bind the government to allocate spectrum through auction only.

Elon Musk-owned Starlink invoked the government’s Antyodaya mission which aims to provide benefit of all its development work to people even in the last rung of society.

Stralink said that NGSO satellite constellations are capable of rapid deployment in any location to provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband which is “one of the fastest ways towards fulfilling the promise of Antyodaya” and finally closing the connectivity gap for currently underserved communities.

Bhat said that there is need to tread with caution and avoid mistakes committed by countries like the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand, who initially opted for auctioning the space spectrum.

“We are sanguine that TRAI will take a comprehensive view of the scenario and decide in accordance with the growth-oriented vision of the government, equitable connectivity landscape, and future-growing space startup industry, leading to the overall long-term growth of our economy,” he said.

Another industry body Satcom Industry Association India (SIA-India) said that the high number of affirmative responses reflects a widespread consensus among the stakeholders regarding the preferred approach for assigning satellite spectrum.

“It highlights the recognition of the efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative methodology in ensuring optimal utilization of spectrum resources, as opposed to auctioning,” SIA-India said.

The industry body said the administrative assignment methodology for satellite spectrum has garnered support from leading industry associations such as Broadband India Forum (BIF), Nasscom, Global Satellite Operators Association (GSOA), US India Business Council (USIBC), Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), and ITU-APT Foundation of India (IAFI) etc.

“Several prominent companies and start-ups in the space sector have also voiced their preference for the administrative assignment methodology,” SIA said.

The proposal of satcom players, however, has been opposed by global telecom industry body GSMA, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), NGN Forum, The Buzzword (Telecom Users Association of India) etc.

Reliance Jio has submitted that spectrum assignment between space-based and terrestrial networks must maximize public good and serve the greatest number of people.

“There is no better method than free and fair auctions to achieve this goal. Auctioning spectrum is the most transparent method of spectrum assignment and allows service providers to decide on their technology, be it terrestrial, satellite, or any other,” Reliance Jio said.

It said that the Supreme Court has unambiguously declared that the right to use such spectrum can only be transferred through a transparent auction and only the Apex Court can alter this policy on spectrum assignment.

Vodafone India Ltd (VIL) said the spectrum from 27.5 GHz to 29.5 GHz (including 27.5 GHz to 28.5 GHz) should be put to a fair and transparent auction in line with the Supreme Court Judgment of 2012 and principle of same service and same rules. PTI

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