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Terms of reference for administrative allocation of satellite spectrum expected soon

DoT, in a few weeks will finalise the terms of reference for the administrative allocation of spectrum for satellite broadband communications. After that, TRAI will begin new consultations.

With the Telecom Bill making the spectrum allocation route mandatory for satellite spectrum last year, the old consultation on the matter by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has ended, they said. TRAI will begin new consultations after the DoT provides the updated ToR.

“Apart from the methodology of allocation, the ToR will clarify the frequencies that will be used, the pricing of spectrum and the terms and conditions to be met by satellite operators with regards to national security,” a source said.

A satellite or orbit is a segment of the radio spectrum made available when satellites are placed into orbit. A debate over whether the scarce resource should be auctioned or allocated by the government has raged on for the last few years. But the Telecommunications Act, 2023 had included satellite-based services to a list of 19 sectors where the Centre has the right to administratively allocate spectrum, thereby, ending the debate that had split the telecom industry.

It had named teleports, television channels, D2H, Digital Satellite News Gathering, and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and mobile satellite services in L and S bands, among others, for spectrum allocation outside of auctions.

Level playing field
According to sources, the government has communicated to stakeholders that a level playing field will be maintained while considering administrative allocation.

Unlike in auctions, an administrative allocation of spectrum will allow multiple operators to use a particular band of spectrum. This happens since the linear nature of satellite bands at particular locations on earth can be serviced by a satellite in orbit only when it is directly positioned above it. As it moves past the point, another satellite belonging to a different operator may pick up the band.

As a result of these technical challenges, there are no global precedents for auctions for satellite spectrum globally, officials have said.

DoT has already granted Eutelsat OneWeb and Reliance Jio’s satellite arm Jio Space Limited the Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite Services (GMPCS) licence needed to offer satellite-based broadband services in India.

Jio is banking on a series of Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites belonging to Luxembourg-based satellite telecommunications network provider SES. Eutelsat Oneweb, which was created in September as the result of a merger between Oneweb and French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications, is banking on a combination of Geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO) – Low Earth Orbit (LEO) fleet of satellites. Business Standard

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