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Govt evaluating shifting broadcasters to 4000-4200 MHz band

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) has asked broadcasters and teleport operators (which provide satellite communication services to broadcasters amongst others) to respond with their views in case the government decides that current and future assignment of spectrum to them is shifted from the 3700-4200 MHz band to the 4000-4200 MHz band.

Through a communication dated June 8, the ministry also wanted to know that in case of such a migration, how much time the broadcasters would need for the revision of the permission agreements and reallocation of foreign satellites, amongst others.

The move by the I&B ministry, which is the administrative ministry for broadcasters, is part of the Department of Telecommunication’s (DoT’s) efforts to free up valuable spectrum for 5G as mobile service operators expand their consumer base. However, it could kick off a bitter battle between broadcasters and mobile operators.

Mobile operators have been pushing for the assignment of this key band to them to meet the growing future need for 5G spectrum, as more and more consumers shift to the service. They point out that the US has allocated the entire band up to 4200 MHz to mobile operators.

The band between 3300 MHz and 3670 MHz has already been auctioned for 5G and is with Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. A portion of it has been allocated to BSNL. On the other hand, broadcasters predominantly use the band between 3700 and 4000 MHz (with a guard band of 30 MHz), which is given at an administrative price. But if the I&B ministry’s proposal is implemented, the quantum of spectrum with the broadcasters will fall from 300 to 200 MHz. Analysts say that if this spectrum is auctioned, it would fetch the government over Rs 1 trillion.

Broadcasters and teleport operators providing them satellite communications services have already upped the ante by pointing out that the country has over 424 channels, and of them, as many as 258 use spectrum under 4000 MHz. They estimate that in order to effect this change, 21 additional transponders would be required to operate between 4000 MHz and 4200 MHz, with an average of two transponders per broadcaster.

Also, new filters have to be developed for this band as they are not available in the market. This implies time as well as cost, and there is no clarity on whether the cost would be borne by the government from its auction proceeds.
The broadcasters also argue that they are already facing interference on satellite frequencies from 3.7 GHz to 4 GHz and shifting to 4000 MHz would require a guard band of at least 1000 MHz.

Moreover, they point out that instead of dislodging a well-established industry that makes entertainment available to subscribers at very low costs, it would be more sensible for mobile operators to use the millimeter wave for 5G as that would not disturb any existing business. Business Standard

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