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Telcos Move PMO to Stop Telecom Dept from Delicensing Spectrum in E, V Bands

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has sought the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to ensure that E and V band spectrum is not delicensed by the Department of Telecommunications, as it would hurt investor sentiment.

In a letter on 7 July, the lobby group argued that if E and V band spectrum were delicensed, the airwaves could be used as access spectrum by unlicensed operators and, hence, telcos will lose the opportunity to create adequate backhaul capacity.

Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

It would also lead to loss in government revenue from spectrum usage charges and licence fee, it added.

Access spectrum is used by telecom companies to increase coverage, while backhaul spectrum enhances capacity of networks.

E band (71-76/81-86 GHz) and V band (57-64 MHz) are globally being used by operators to boost backhaul requirements.

With increasing data traffic in India, operators believe the central government should release the airwaves quickly.

However, the telecom department is unlikely to auction spectrum in the E and V bands. Instead, it is likely to go with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (Trai) recommendations to allocate these airwaves in line with global practices, Mint had reported on 12 June.

Trai had suggested a fixed-fee mechanism to allocate these airwaves instead of an auction. The regulator’s recommendations have been pending since 2014, but DoT has not yet outlined the mechanism to allocate the airwaves.

In fact, in the draft of the new communications policy made public on 1 May, DoT said that it aims to achieve efficient spectrum utilization and management by promoting effective utilization of high-capacity backhaul E-band and V-band spectrum “in line with international best practices”.

“Since the government had decided to assign access spectrum only through auction (following a Supreme Court judgement), if the government intends to allocate part of the V-band spectrum for access services, it is imperative that the same should be assigned only through auction,” said COAI.

In 2012, the apex court had cancelled 122 spectrum licences issued on or after 10 January, 2008, by the then telecom minister, A. Raja, after finding that their allocation was done illegally.

However, the Supreme Court order does not distinguish between access spectrum and backhaul spectrum, and has mentioned how an auction is the best way to allocate any public resource, a legal professional said, requesting anonymity. – Livemint

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