New Delhi: Satellite users, including major television channels such as Sun TV and the TV Today Network, won a reprieve after the government put on hold an earlier directive asking them to vacate a frequency band to make way for the introduction of wireless broadband services such as those based on a recently-evolved standard ‘Wimax’.
The order was temporarily put on hold after satellite users complained that the large-scale deployment of consumer wireless technologies will cause interference with their existing activities.
“We are trying to ascertain if indeed such disturbance will occur or whether the two services can coexist,” said R.N. Padukone, senior deputy director general of the Union government’s telecom standards body Telecom Engineering Centre. The government, started a week-long study of the interference caused by wireless broadband services on Wednesday. It will be carried out by the department of telecom and the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro).
In January, the government had directed 22 agencies, including the World Bank and numerous communications and broadcast companies, to stop sending or receiving satellite signals using frequencies between 3.400-3.7 giga hertz (gHz). Giving a deadline of six weeks, the government had warned the users that in case they failed to move to higher frequencies, they will have to accept interference from ground-based wireless broadband services.
The government’s action followed the telecom regulator’s recommendation that the frequencies be cleared of satellite operations and auctioned among wireless broadband operators, several of who have shown interest in Wimax.
Wimax, short for worldwide interoperability for microwave access, is a standard that is capable of data speeds of 10 megabits per second (mbps) up to 2km away from a radio transmitter.
Many of the satellite operators, including broadcasters who were using the frequencies to deliver TV channels to cable operators through satellite, had dragged their feet over the issue, with trade body Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia raising strong protests.
The association had pointed out that even after shifting out of the targeted frequencies, there would still be interference to satellite services from the ground-based operations. A shift would also have required thousands of cable operators to re-tune their satellite receivers, said Anjan Mitra, executive director of the association.
Wimax equipment vendors and wireless Internet service providers opposed the broadcasters by pointing out that limited scale wireless broadband operations are already in existence in the band, in the 100 megaHertz from 3.3 gHz to 3.4 gHz.
The government says it will go by the results of its trial, expected to be known by mid-June. The tests will be carried out in Chennai where a high-power Wimax base station has been set up with reception equipment placed as far away as 10km for the experiment. Starting Wednesday, a mobile testing van will roam the Capital checking satellite signals from Isro’s satellites to detect interference by the Wimax signals.
The government is evaluating whether to allow service providers to launch full-scale commercial services in the adjacent frequencies or to go in for new frequencies such as between 2.4 gHz and 2.6 gHz.