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Review spectrum pricing mechanism, CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pulled up the telecom department for not finalising policy on spectrum assignment for captive uses and flagged the absence of spectrum price review for captive users administratively.

In its report titled ‘Management of spectrum assigned on the administrative basis to government departments/agencies’, the CAG asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to review the spectrum pricing mechanism for captive users to incentivise ministries, departments and agencies, and for maintaining spectrum management discipline.

“They may consider differential pricing, depending on the features and usage of various spectrum bands,” the CAG said in a report tabled in Parliament on Monday.

It noted that despite receiving a legal opinion (July 2021) on its own reference, regarding the method for allotment of spectrum for captive uses, including government departments, the department had not finalised the policy for allotment and assignment of spectrum for captive uses/other commercial services with the approval of the Digital Communications Commission.

The DCC is the apex body for telecom policy formulation.

“DoT had also not reviewed the pricing of spectrum assigned for captive users administratively, on formulae basis since 2012, though a Committee had recommended for a periodical review of the pricing policy in 2013,” the CAG report said.

There was no differential pricing for spectrum, depending on features and usage of various spectrum bands assigned to users, it observed.

“DoT may devise a policy on allotment and assignment of spectrum for captive users/other commercial usages in alignment with statements made in NDCP 2018 (National Digital Communication Policy) and end adhocism in allotment of spectrum to government departments/ agencies,” the report said.

It suggested that the DoT should establish a permanent set-up comprising all stakeholders for a periodical review of spectrum planning, availability, allotments, assignments and pricing. This would expedite decisions for efficient management and optimal utilisation of spectrum in India.

“They may also ensure that an MIS (management information system) is put in place in DoT to get details of actual spectrum utilised by Government user departments and agencies,” the CAG suggested.

The DoT in consultation with all the departments should take proactive measures for the finalisation of recommendations of working groups and decisions of the Committee of Secretaries for reassignment, re-allotment and refarming of the spectrum.

“In pursuance of NDCP 2018, DoT may coordinate with Government users to provide spectrum in substitute bands for users in 1427-1500 MHz and 2300-2400 MHz bands, harmonisation exercise in 2100 MHz, sharing of spectrum in 700 MHz band as these had been identified for IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) use and have scope for commercial utilisation of spectrum,” it said.

The DoT and Railways should monitor the completion of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) based network project in the 700 MHz band so that Railways vacate the spectrum in the 900 MHz band being used by them, and it is made available for commercial utilisation.

“DoT in consultation with TRAI may take early action for the auction/ utilisation of IMT spectrum lying idle with them,” the report said.

The Department of Space (DOS) and DoT should work together to identify a suitable technology solution in a manner that both services can co-exist in important frequency bands.

“DoS needs to engage with client Departments and other potential users at an early stage before planning and launching the satellite capacity so as to minimise non-utilisation of spectrum resources,” the CAG report said.

The DoS, it felt, needs to establish a mechanism for assessing and reviewing the utilisation of spectrum in all bands, particularly in IMT bands and satellite bandwidth for ensuring optimal and efficient utilisation of assigned radiowaves.

“DoS may consolidate spectrum-related information and make it available at a common platform for easy access and assessment of spectrum at Corporate Infocom level,” said the report.

The Ministry of Home Affairs should devise a policy for spectrum management among central armed police forces, it added.

Besides, the DoT can ensure that public sector undertakings, such as ONGC and GAIL, use the assigned spectrum optimally and efficiently and surrender unutilised frequencies. PTI

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