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DoT Panel Divided On E&V Band Spectrum Allocation

It seems that a decision over allocation of spectrum in E and V band carriers is turning out to be a Herculean task for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). An internal committee, formed to examine the issue, has given a divided opinion with one member supporting auction as the desired route while two others favouring that spectrum should be given administratively for a fixed charge as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

The regulator had given its recommendations in November 2015 and even after more than three years, no decision has been finalised. The Trai had recommended that both E (71-76 gigahertz frequency and 81-86 Ghz) and V (57-64 Ghz frequency range) bands should be opened up in the country for acceleration of broadband penetration and DoT should accelerate the process of opening these bands in line with other technologically developed countries of the world. It must be mentioned that V band has been delicensed in countries like USA, UK, Canada, China, Australia, Japan etc.

However, in India no decision has been taken so far, primarily because there is no consensus among the industry. While the licensed players like mobile operators and internet service providers want the use of such spectrum (used as backhaul to connect mobile towers) to be restricted to them, others support delicensing as it will allow more companies to offer Wi-Fi services.

Also, the DoT is treading cautiously because of the 2012 Supreme Court order, which stated that for all natural resources including spectrum, auction should be the preferred method. As the apex court had not distinguished between access spectrum and backhaul spectrum, the onus lies on the government to decide.

Data through E and V bands can be transmitted at high speeds and can be used for Wi-Fi services. Trai feels that higher prices for E and V band airwaves would not help in popularising these bands as only short distances can be covered using the airwaves.

Usually, as spectrum bands go higher in frequency, the distance covered reduces. E and V bands do not go long distances, but they can be used in a limited radius for faster speeds.

The regulator had recommended that E-band spectrum should be charged at Rs 10,000 per annum per slot of 250 MHz each and there should be initial promotional discount of 50% for three years from the date of allocation of first carrier in this band. For spectrum in V-band, the regulator has recommended that it should be charged at Rs 1,000 per annum per slot of 50 MHz each.―Financial Express

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