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Satellite spectrum to be auctioned, not assigned, DoT sends note to TRAI

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is batting decisively for the auction of satellite spectrum. After nearly two years of intense lobbying from satellite players, including Low Earth Orbit (LEO) players such as OneWeb, Telesat and Starlink — who were seeking administrative assignment of satellite spectrum — sources told BusinessLine that the government has decided that LEO and MEO (Medium-Earth orbit) players will have to participate in spectrum auctions in order to acquire spectrum. At present, satellite spectrum is administratively assigned.

As the soon-to-be-announced new space policy is likely to encourage private entrants into the Satcom space, satellite players were eyeing spectrum between 27.5 to 31.5 GHz to provide new services such as satellite broadband. New entrants such as Sunil Bharti Mittal-backed OneWeb want to build satellite gateways in this spectrum band.

Telecom operators were also eyeing spectrum between 27.5GHz to 28.5 GHz for 5G, and the government had decided during deliberations for 5G auctions that this band would be shared between satellite players as well as telcos and be used for mixed-use purposes. DoT has sent a reference in that regard to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to provide recommendations on how spectrum would be shared and how will LEO players and MEOs participate in the auctions.

Sources said besides sharing spectrum bands with telecom operators, LEOs and MEOs will also have to partake in spectrum auctions to procure spectrum in bands which they do not share with operators (this is between 28.5GHz to 31.5GHz).

“There are very few auctions of satellite spectrum in the world. Therefore, TRAI will have to deliberate on how exactly such an auction occurs,” said the source.

The DoT has also identified 37.0 to 42.5 GHz spectrum band, where the department has proposed mixed use, between telecom operators and satcom players.

Meetings related to this proposal between the DoT and the Department of Space will also be held.

As India reckons with a new age of telephony with 5G, new technologies such as low latency satellite broadband and satellite backhaul will also make entry into the Indian market.

Big tech giants such as Amazon’s Kuiper, Elon Musk’s Starlink and Sunil Mittal’s OneWeb are eyeing the Indian market, as regulators deliberate on the new wave of regulations for the upcoming technologies. The Hindu BusinessLine

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