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New Telecom Policy To Allocate Non-Commercial Spectrum At Market Price

The spectrum meant for non-commercial use, mainly for defence, police, railways and public broadcaster, will be allocated at the “market-determined price”, according to the new telecom policy.

Broadly, spectrum allocation will be based on non-commercial captive use and non-commercial public use. The first category of the spectrum is mainly utilized by defence or police for their internal purposes. The second category is used by the public broadcaster, Doordarshan.

“We want to ensure that nobody squats on the spectrum, it is not used inefficiently and is used for public purposes,” an official in the know said, adding the spectrum would be sold at a nominal but nuanced price in order to make sure that it does not go unutilized.

In the case of the Indian Railways, the airwaves would fall under both the above-mentioned categories — if used for internal communications i.e. signaling purposes, then these would be categorized as non-commercial captive use, otherwise non-commercial public use.

The policy, based on the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), will be in line with global best practices. In September 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the new telecom policy — The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 — which aims to create 4 million jobs, draw a whopping $100 billion investments into the sector by 2022 and boost its contribution to 8 per cent of GDP from 6 per cent in 2017, besides backing the principle of net neutrality.

The need for a new telecom policy was felt in the wake of global transformation in the sector, which required emerging technologies such as 5G and IoT (internet of things) to be customer-focused and application-driven. As far as the allocation of the microwave or backhaul spectrum is concerned, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is working on a policy of allotting backbone airwaves.

Microwave access, or MWA spectrum, is allocated to telecom operators for short distances to provide mobile services. The Comptroller and Auditor General in its report in January had pointed out MWA spectrum was allocated to a telecom operator in 2015 on a first-cum-first-served basis in contravention of the recommendation of a DoT committee constituted in December 2012.—Business Standard

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