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Jio and Vi push for bringing aviation communication under licensing regime

Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea (Vi) have urged the telecom regulator to bring aviation communications players – who provide connectivity between ground stations and aircraft – under the unified licensing regime, and also pushed for auctioning the airwaves used by them.

This pits the two telcos against Geneva-based SITA (Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques), the top provider of aviation communication services, which wants administrative allocation of such airwaves to continue.

Both Jio and Vi have told the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that in the interest of uniformity in regulation and ensuring passenger safety, communication services related to aviation must be brought under a permanent regulatory oversight by inclusion of a new authorisation under the unified licence.

“Right to use such spectrum should only be by transparent auction… there should be no consideration of any other spectrum assignment methodology for this spectrum as well,” Jio said in its submission.

The telecom market leader was responding to TRAI’s supplementary paper on “data communication services between aircraft and ground stations provided by organisations other than Airports Authority of India (AAI)”.

Vi has backed Jio’s view, saying spectrum is a valuable and inexhaustible natural resource and has an element of public good. It said “it’s vital to ensure efficient management and use of spectrum as well as no loss to the national exchequer”.

Rival Bharti Airtel did not comment on TRAI’s latest supplementary paper. But in an earlier submission on the original consultation paper on the issue, the Sunil Mittal-led telco had opposed auctions and backed administrative allocation of airwaves to entities providing communication services between ground stations and aircraft, other than AAI given the limited or restricted use of such airwaves.

In response to TRAI’s latest supplementary paper, SITA has dismissed Jio and Vi’s views, saying the current practice of allotting frequencies under wireless operating permits to aviation communications service providers is adequate.

“Some airwaves within the 117.975 – 137 MHz band are reserved for specific use (tower and approach services, emergency, operational control services… etc), and not assignable to other communication service providers,” SITA said in its submission.

It said this spectrum band is allocated for aeronautical services, managed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and auctioning it would jeopardise the operations of aircraft communication addressing and reporting system.

In its supplementary paper, TRAI had sought industry views on whether aviation communication services providers must also be brought under unified licence, and on the eligibility criteria for participating in a potential airwaves sale if such spectrum is to be assigned via auctions. TelecomTalk

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