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DoT planning to seek nod to sell unused spectrum bands

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is seeking approval from the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to incorporate new or unused spectrum bands in the upcoming auction of airwaves for mobile services.

The approval is regarding spectrum in the 3,700-4,200 MHz band, which is also known as the mid-band, 1,427-1,518 MHz band, and some frequencies in the 470-582 MHz band.

“The mid-band is ideal for 5G services and in the last sale, the spectrum in the 3,300 MHz was bought by all the three telcos,” ET reported citing an official.

Spectrum in 3,700-4,200 MHz is currently being used by the Department of Space (DoS) and ministries of broadcasting, defence, and civil aviation, among others. Therefore, “we have to discuss the matter with the CoS and how much quantum can be freed for auction”, the official told said.

Post approval from CoS, DoT will head to seek a nod from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding recommendations on pricing and other modalities, the official was quoted. Hence, if CoS decides that the spectrum can’t be freed immediately in the required bands, the frequencies will not be put up for sale.

“DoT plans to auction frequencies in the millimetre wave band like 27.5-29.5 GHz and 37-40 GHz, and the CoS may be told about it,” another official said in the report.

About Committee of Secretaries
The CoS is an institutional body headed by the cabinet secretary which regulates any matter that requires wider deliberation. The approval requests sent to the committee are discussed among various secretaries of the central government to help make a decision.

The request by DoT to seek CoS approval for auctioning spectrum in certain bands comes amidst opposition from a few quarters in regard to the proposed auction of new bands including the 37 GHz and 3700-4200 MHz. The department is considering a mixed-use (mobile and satellite) for the 37 GHz band.

“As per deliberations already concluded, DoS and DoT have agreed to make available the frequency bands from 37-37.5 GHz for IMT or mobile services while 37.5-40 GHz and 42.5-43.5 GHz will be for mobile services and satellite gateway links,” the official said.

In addition to this, the spectrum expiring in 2024 will also be put to auction along with unsold airwaves from last year’s sale. The report mentions that DoT is also planning to put airwaves in 11 bands ranging from 600 MHz to above 37 GHz in this sale.

Currently, the auction shows a low bidding intensity with only two buyers in the picture – Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel – effectively in the fray since Vodafone Idea (Vi) is struggling to survive in the middle of a cashflow turmoil.

Reportedly, Airtel and Vi have permits that will be expiring in 2024 in some circles such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, and Odisha. In the 2022 sale, the winning price of UP (East) rose around 80% over its base price as Airtel – whose permits expire in 2024 in India’s most populous circle – had a bit of a struggle with Jio to protect its business. Business Standard

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