Spectrum allocation: Legal view for E&V band

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With the initiative for the 5G network boosted by the budget, the DoT has the wireless adviser to work out a plan for a hybrid model of allocation of spectrum in the E&V bands.

That should have the potential to provide high-speed broadband services, even to remote areas, and also for better in-building coverage.

According to sources, once the report is finalised, then the department plans to seek a legal opinion on the course to be adopted.

The decision was taken after Telecom secretary K Rajaraman made a detailed presentation to communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The issue lies in the methodology of adoption for the allocation of spectrum to the operators. There are two differing opinions from the industry regarding this issue.

While the telecom companies like Reliance Jio argue for auctions, big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook argue for delicensing and administrative allocation.

The concerned spectrum is in the E (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) and V (-64 GHz) bands. They are used as backhaul to connect mobile phones where fibre is not available.

Even though the DoT in-principle feels that auctions should not be the only means to allocate such a spectrum, they have had a hard time finding an alternative that takes care of pricing.

When all of the spectrum in the bands are delicensed, it will lead to loss to the exchequer.

Telecom operators argue that the spectrum in the band concerned must be auctioned. If not, it would lead to a loss of revenue to the government, for these bands have a very high commercial value proposition.

This has been conveyed by the telecom companies to the government through their association, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). They are opposed by the tech companies, through their association Broadband India Forum (BIF).

BIF argues that the spectrum should be delicensed and not auctioned as it is not the same as the spectrum for access services. They pointed out that the auctioning of spectrum in these bands would go against international best practices.

To put COAI under further pressure, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, in its recommendations submitted to the DoT in August 2014, has favoured a light licensing approach and not auctioning this spectrum.

TRAI had recommended that E and V bands should be opened with light-touch regulation, and allotment should be on a link-to-link basis.

The report stated that E band carriers should be charged at ₹10,000 per annum per the carrier of 250 MHz each. It should have an initial promotional discount of 50% for three years from the date of allocation of the first carrier in this band.

For V band carriers, it had said that it should be ₹1,000 per annum per carrier of 50MHz each. These prices are not permanent, and should be reviewed after five years based on deployment and usage.

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