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Spectrum in E and V Bands Should not be ‘De-licensed’, says COAI

Industry body COAI has opposed ‘de-licensing’ of ‘E and V bands’ and made an aggressive pitch to the telecom department to allot them to mobile operators for backhaul usage.

The Cellular Operators Association of India has written to Telecom Secretary saying that the auction of spectrum in the E and V bands should be considered in case it is to be used for front-end access services.

The method of allotment of spectrum in E and V bands is being hotly-debated in the telecom industry as also within the government.

Views are divided on whether the spectrum in these bands should be auctioned or given administratively at a fixed rate as suggested by telecom regulator Trai.

Radiowaves used for transmitting signals to mobile phones are referred to as the access spectrum while backhaul spectrum augments signals between mobile towers at the back-end.

COAI has said that the 4G-induced surge in mobile traffic and the co-location of 2G, 3G and 4G at the same physical site will lead to a “substantial” crunch in existing backhaul requirements and raise demand for high-capacity microwave links for ‘backhauling’.

New technology and tools are now available that can deliver high-capacity backhaul microwave link using the two bands, it said, adding that they are increasingly being leveraged by operators globally to cost effectively meet mobile broadband backhaul needs.

“Considering the enormous demand of E and V band by access service providers for backhaul capacity, it is imminent that the spectrum in E and V band is only assigned to the access service providers having access spectrum,” COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said in a letter dated July 7, 2018 to the Chairman of Telecom Commission and DoT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

COAI said it had learnt that the the Department of Telecom may be considering ‘de-licensing’ of spectrum in V Band. It warned that doing so would not only lead to interference in the bands, but potentially throw open the spectrum for access purposes hurting existing access service providers who have dished out close to Rs 3.5 lakh crore in radiowave auctions since 2010.

“Access devices are already available in the V band, and therefore this would lead to flow of traffic away from the access service providers networks to the de-licensed networks, impacting the financial viability of the access service providers,” it said.

It has also argued that de-licensing (that is taking the spectrum out of the licence ambit) would cause a “huge loss” to the government as it would impact the revenue accruing from licence fee and spectrum usage charges.

“Captive networks will start getting created through de-licensed networks. It would be virtually impossible for the Government to monitor the violations of net neutrality principles of such de-licensed networks,” COAI said.

It stressed that DoT should not consider “any de-licensing of spectrum in the E and V band”.

COAI said that while it believes that some foreign internet companies are purportedly propagating a view that de-licensing would lead to proliferation of rural broadband, such arguments were “completely baseless”.

“These justifications are completely baseless because in villages and rural areas even the presently de-licensed spectrum in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz band is completely unused and therefore no additional spectrum is required in those areas,” COAI said.

The government, it said, has decided to assign access spectrum only through auctions. “In case government intends to allocate part of V band spectrum for access services it is imperative that the same should be assigned only through auctions.”

Broadband India Forum alleged in a statement today that a demand for auction of V-Band spectrum would be “anti-consumer and anti reforms” and will harm the digital progress of the country.

Auction of V-Band will decelerate connectivity through Wi-Fi, it said.

The forum’s President TV Ramachandran said, “We…believe that there is absolutely no merit in auctioning of V-Band spectrum. This band is meant for Wi-Fi and very short backhaul only and will go a long way in meeting the data download capacity of the country, which is abysmally low”.

Ramachandran said that any recommendation to auction would be “retrograde”, stifling innovation and destroying the business case around “both conventional telcos as well as the new age digital players rather than improving incumbent financial viability”. – Financial Express

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