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DoT Asks Telcos To List Spectrum Needs As Data Demand Surges In Lockdown

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked operators to provide the Wireless Planning and Coordination Wing (WPC) with details of the amount of spectrum in each circle they would require temporarily.

Telcos have seen a 15-20 per cent surge in traffic since Sunday as a result of the lockdown as well as the near-complete shift to “work from home”. Earlier, the capacity had risen by 10 per cent.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said: “Each telco has been asked by the DoT to submit their demand of additional spectrum circle-wise to the WPC.” The WPC, a government wing, is tasked with allotting spectrum frequency and monitoring them.

According to COAI estimates, each telco would require about an additional 5MHz to ensure that the networks continue to function smoothly. However, they would require spectrum in the 4G band as the bulk of the demand is coming for data. “We expect the total requirement for telecom operators to not exceed 20 MHz,” adds Mathews.

Telcos say they would prefer spectrum to be offered in the 1800 Mhz band, which is being used by all players for data. According to their calculations, the defence sector has close to 100 Mhz of contiguous spectrum in this band, which is unused and could be given to the operators for a limited period of time.

The COAI had, in a letter to the DoT earlier, requested for additional spectrum from the government for a limited period.

Responding to an appeal by telcos to reduce bandwidth usage, Over-The-Top (OTT) players on Wednesday announced that they would be defaulting high definition and ultra-high definition to standard definition content, or offering SD content at bitrates not higher than 480p on cellular networks till April 14.

Companies like Zee5 have gone further by temporarily disabling live TV GEC channels, except for news channels, on its platform.

The move, according to COAI, has helped in reducing the pressure and stabilising the demand on bandwidth, for the time being. This is because streaming channels consume over 30 percent of network capacity and the move will help in reduction of bandwidth by 20-30 percent.

According to BofA Global Research, India’s fixed broadband penetration is only 6 per cent. Hence, bulk of the pressure of the ‘work for home’ traffic (which is around 70 per cent of the total traffic) is expected to be on the cellular network. India has only 19 million fixed broadband, users compared to 630 million (3G and 4G) users.

―Authored by Surajeet Das Gupta, Business Standard

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