In response to a consultation paper on telecommunication infrastructure sharing, spectrum sharing and spectrum leasing, released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Reliance Jio asserted that the inter-band spectrum sharing is anti-competitive and would possibly lead to loss to the exchequer as well as failure of (the) process of spectrum auction. On the contrary, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi) have backed such a move, saying it will enhance spectral efficiency.

Meanwhile, Jio believes that allowing inter-band spectrum sharing would result in end-to-end network sharing in addition to undermining the quality of the spectrum auctions. According to the operator, with the abolishing of spectrum usage charges (SUCs) for new spectrum acquired, allowing inter-band spectrum sharing could result in losses to the government. Moreover, inter-band spectrum sharing will in turn reduce the capital expenditure (capex) and operational expenditure (opex) digital infrastructure investments by service providers with easy access to spectrum and network without actually investing, which might adversely impact competition in the sector, the operator reiterated.

Besides, Airtel and Vi argued that allowing inter-band spectrum sharing would promote spectral efficiency and help improve quality of service provided to consumers, especially since cellular traffic is on the rise. As per Airtel, inter-band access spectrum-sharing among access service providers should be permitted, particularly because since 2015 spectrum sharing in India is in existence with the sole objective of enhancing spectral efficiency by combining/pooling the spectrum holding. Meanwhile, Vi is of the opinion that since telcos have bid for the spectrum in the auction process, they should be allowed to fully monetise the asset, in addition to the practice helping improve spectral efficiency.

Commenting on the consultation paper, Vi noted that as the spectrum is purchased on a market price through an open and transparent auction, the spectrum holding telecom service providers (TSPs) should have the right to fully exploit commercial value of the spectrum, including through inter-band sharing. It added that to ensure the spectrum sharing is not abused as a practice in the industry, a lock-in period of two-three years should be imposed from the time of spectrum acquisition before an entity is allowed to share it. Additionally, it suggested that the shared spectrum should be accounted for when calculating spectrum caps.