2 min read.Updated: 28 Sep 2020, 10:25 PM ISTIshita Guha
Mint has seen a copy of the letter written to the communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd are COAI members
The Cellular Operators of India (COAI) has urged the department of telecommunications (DoT) to allocate spectrum in the E and V bands, crucial for 5G services and used as backhaul for mobile broadband services, through auctions.
In a letter dated 28 September, the industry body argued that if E and V band spectrum were delicensed or administratively allocated, the airwaves could be used as access spectrum by unlicensed players, leading to lack of opportunity for licensed telecom companies to create adequate backhaul capacity.
Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd are COAI members.
“If unlicensed, there will be wide and indiscriminate adoption of these spectrum bands which will make it open for many uses beyond telecom, leading to the uncontrolled concerns interference and making these bands useless for telecom services," COAI said.
Delicensing of the E (71-76/81-86 GHz) and V (57-64 MHz) bands would also lead to huge loss in government revenue from spectrum usage charges and licence fee, COAI said.
Access spectrum is used by telecom companies to increase voice and data coverage and improve these services, while backhaul spectrum enhances capacity of networks.
The E and V bands are globally used by operators to boost backhaul transmission. COAI director general SP Kochhar said, “The administrative allocation of licenses for V/E-bands by few countries was mainly in the pre-5G era".
With increasing demand for wireless data, telecom operators believe the central government should release the E and V band spectrum immediately as it boosts data transfer speed.
Though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) issued its recommendations to delicense spectrum in the E and V bands and not allocate the same via auctions in 2014, the DoT has yet not outlined the mechanism to allocate the airwaves. Trai suggested a fixed-fee mechanism to allocate these airwaves instead of an auction.
COAI fears delicensing will prevent telcos from competing effectively with operators providing services using unlicensed spectrum or "acquired through light-touch regulation as recommended by Trai".
In the draft of the new communications policy made public on 1 May, 2018, the DoT said it aims to achieve efficient spectrum utilisation and management by promoting effective use of high-capacity backhaul E and V band spectrum “in line with international best practices".
“Since the spectrum in these bands have high commercial value due to potential usage as access spectrum as well, with limited spectrum availability and there are more than one competitors who are ready to bid for these bands, any method of allocation other than transparent auction is legally untenable and amounts to contempt of Hon’ble Supreme Court," COAI said.
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 they were illegally allocated.