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Auctioning E, V band spectrum will deny consumers broadband connectivity benefits

The Broadband India Forum (BIF) industrial think tank on Wednesday opposed any auction of spectrum in E and V bands, saying it would deprive consumers of the benefits of broadband connectivity, and it goes against the regulator’s and global best practices. In a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, BIF said it “strongly” disagreed with industry association COAI’s view that E- and V-band spectrum should be urgently auctioned off to mobile carriers. BIF argued that E and V bands cannot be placed on the same footing as spectrum for mobile access.

“Any auction of E and V bands would deny … consumers and the country in general the benefits of broadband connectivity and economic growth … goes against the relevant Trai recommendations … goes against international best practices,” Broadband India Forum (BIF) TV President Ramachandran said in the letter. BIF said it would open up spectrum in both the E band (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) and the V band (57-64 Ghz) according to the 2014 Trai recommendations.

It added that in 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had further reiterated its recommendation for V-band delicacy in response to the telecom division’s comments. “You would appreciate that Trai’s recommendations align with best practices followed internationally,” said BIF.

More than 70 countries have already opened up the 60 GHz band (V band) to subtle use, including progressive markets such as the US, UK, Australia, Korea, Japan, South Africa and Sweden, it added. “In addition, in the countries where the band has been softened, innovation in the 60 GHz band has blossomed,” added BIF.

In the E band (71-76 Ghz and 81-86 Ghz), Trai has also recommended that it be subject to ‘light licensing’, in line with international best practice, it said. “We would also ask you to consider that both the E and V bands are microwave spectrum bands and should not be compared to the spectrum for mobile access,” the letter said.

BIF also said that the 2012 Supreme Court ruling canceling the allocation to licensees concerned holders of mobile access spectrum. The Forum’s letter comes within days after the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) wrote a letter to the Minister of Telecom, Ravi Shankar Prasad, requesting urgent allocation of E and V band spectrum by auction to access providers. The COAI had warned that any decision on the licensing or administrative allocation of high commercial value E and V band spectrum would be contrary to the prevailing policy framework. It added that the move would create an uneven playing field for licensed telcos, cause a massive loss of revenue for the government, and be legally unsustainable.

Earlier this week, the COAI had called in its letter to the minister for spectrum allocation in these specified bands “through a transparent auction directly to access service providers”. The COAI had emphasized that these bands are “extremely valuable resources for India for 5G as well as backhaul for mobile broadband”.

Radio waves used for sending signals to cell phones are called the access spectrum while the backhaul spectrum amplifies the signals between backhaul cell towers. Radio waves in E band, which falls in 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, and V band, which is 57-64 GHz, can transmit data at very high speeds, and the method of spectrum allocation in these bands is a topic has been the subject of much debate in the industry and within government circles in the past. PTI

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