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DoT backs auctioning satcom spectrum, albeit TRAI & ex AG against it

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has supported auction as the preferred method for allocation of satcom spectrum, backing the stance of telecom firms Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea (VI) against satcom companies seeking allocation without bidding.

Most telecom firms have opposed offering spectrum for satellite communications at an administered price as it may lead to an uneven playing field, as they would be offering the same services. However, satellite companies, led by OneWeb have opposed this, saying that globally, it is given administratively.

DoT officials were quoted as saying that sitcom airwaves should be given to the highest bidder since several firms are trying to enter the market and that the bandwidth should be utilised for commercial purposes. An auction would be a better way to allocate the airwaves as the satellite spectrum will be used in accessing customers, just like mobile networks, the officials added.

Low earth orbit (LEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites offer low latency and broadband speeds similar to terrestrial networks, according to a DoT official.

The DoT had asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for its recommendations on the auction of spectrum for space-based communication services. But, Trai has sought views on alternative allocation methods, such as administrative allocation, besides an auction.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had backed the administrative allocation of spectrum for satellite services, according to the ET. Rohatgi has given his legal opinion on queries raised by Broadband India Forum (BIF), which includes Bharti Group-backed Oneweb, Nelco, Amazon, Meta, Hughes, Inmarsat, Google, and Netflix as members.

To highlight auction as the preferred method of allocating satcom spectrum, DoT officials also cited a legal opinion from July 2020 from the then attorney general, K K Venugopal. Business Standard

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