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Issue of satcom spectrum auction still hanging, no decision taken

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to communicate to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that its recommendations on the auction of spectrum for space-based communication services are still “awaited”.

This request is expected to be incorporated in the department’s communication to the regulator, seeking its recommendations on the auction of spectrum in the frequency bands for international mobile telecommunications (IMT).

As part of reforms in the telecom sector, the government had decided to hold spectrum auctions every financial year, usually in the fourth quarter. This communication will be the first step in the preparation for the action.

The reminder to TRAI on the contentious issue of spectrum assignment for space communications will come at a time when there have been differences between the DoT and TRAI on the way forward. The DoT sent a reference in September 2021 to the regulator for recommending appropriate frequency bands and block sizes, base price, and quantum of spectrum for the auction of space-based communication services.
After many letters of clarification between the two, TRAI came out with a consultation paper in April this year regarding what could be the ideal method for the assignment of spectrum for space-based communications- auction — administered pricing or some other alternative method — thus opening up the entire issue once again.

Stakeholders can still make suggestions via the consultation paper.

Most telcos 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.

The DoT is also expected to convey to the regulator that the department is actively considering the request made by BSNL/MTNL for additional 30 MHz in the 3300 band for 5G, 400 GHz in the 26 GHz millimetre band, and 10 MHz of paired spectrum in the 700 MHz band in lieu of the 600 band again for the rollout of its 5G services.

Moreover, part of the spectrum held by various TSPs (telecommunications service providers) assigned administratively which will expire during 2024 may be also taken into account in future auctions for inclusion.

The DoT is expected to request that spectrum unsold in the auction held during July/August of 2022, along with newly identified ones and spectra which expire in 2024, should be put on the block in the forthcoming auction. Business Standard

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