Telecom operators have urged the Indian government to allocate spectrum in E & V bands through “transparent auction” on an immediate basis instead of de-licensing it.
Delicensing of these bands will “tilt the level playing field” against licensed telecom service providers (TSPs) since they are burdened with various costs like spectrum acquisition, License Fee, Spectrum Usage Charge and right of way, COAI said.
“With de-licensing of such important spectrum bands, mobile broadband backhaul would be severely constrained. In addition, neither the roll out obligation can be imposed nor the operator will be keen for seeking returns on investment as they are not paying any amount for this spectrum. Therefore, efficient use of E & V band cannot be guaranteed,” COAI director -general S P Kocchar said in a letter dated September 28 to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) represents Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio.
“This [de-licensing] will prevent TSPs from competing effectively with operators providing services using unlicensed spectrum or acquired through light touch regulation as recommended by TRAI,” COAI said.
The body said that delicensing and allocation of spectrum on link to link basis are legally untenable and against the Supreme Court’s 2012 verdict on spectrum that scarce natural resources with high demand and valuation should not be allocated administratively at a fixed, nominal cost and that the auctions are the best and most transparent way for “price discovery” of such natural resources.
Spectrum in E & V bands has manifold utilities, whereby it can act both as a high capacity access spectrum for voice and data services as well as backhaul link spectrum.
Airwaves in the E band, which falls between 71-76 GHz and 81-86 Ghz, and V band, between 57-64 GHz, can transmit data with speed of around 1,000 megabit per second.
The bands are mostly used as backhaul, which means connecting the core of a telecom network to nodes and then onto towers, to transmit data. In places where telcos cannot lay fibre – – which typically requires manpower for laying and maintaining, national and local level permissions besides a lot of investments – the E and V bands can be used, which is also more cost efficient when compared to fibre.
This spectrum is also called fibre wireless or fixed spectrum, because like fibre it has the capacity to carry bandwidth since it is point-to-point, but it is not used for direct mobile connectivity.
COAI said that telecom operators have spent thousands of crores in acquiring spectrum for providing telecom services and it will be highly unjust if spectrum for similar or superior services is offered on delicensed basis to operators, wherein no payment would be involved.
“This would result in one set of operators paying high spectrum charges (acquisition cost as well as SUC) while another set of operators would not be paying anything, for offering the same set of services to the same set of customers…this would prevent fair competition and offer irrational cost advantage to these operators using unlicensed spectrum,” the body said in its letter.
COAI said that a market determined price through open auction will ensure huge revenue to the government which has to be forgone in case of light-touch regulation or delicensing.
Telco said that the V-band and E-band are extremely valuable resources for India for 5G as well as backhaul for mobile broadband, which will enable millions of homes to access high speed broadband for entertainment, education and work.
“As India aspires to take a leadership position in 5G, the existing and long term availability of spectrum that can be used for carrier grade services for 1.3 billion Indians will be crucial. The administrative allocation of licenses for V/E-bands by few countries was mainly in the pre-5G era,” Kochhar said.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel executives recently urged the government to release spectrum in E and V bands, which will enable telecom operators to build a strong backhaul as they modernise their existing 4G networks with 5G-ready technologies.
“E-band spectrum, which is for the backhaul… the government should really take a look at and see what they can do to make it more readily available,” Vodafone Idea chief technology officer Vishant Vora recently said at the ETTelecom Digital Telco Virtual Summit 2020. “The operators will need that backhaul – there’s no point in putting in a lot of spectrum in the front end of the radio without having a proper backhaul.”
Bharti Airtel’s CTO Randeep Sekhon also said that spectrum in E band and V band will be key to 5G backhaul in India. The government should allow these bands at the earliest, he said. https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com