Telecom operators have urged the government to allocate spectrum in E&V bands through transparent auction on an immediate basis instead of de-licensing it.

According to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), 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, licence fee, spectrum usage charge (SUC) and right of way (RoW).

In this regard, Lt General Dr. S.P. Kocchar, director general (DG), COAI, in a letter dated September 28, 2020, to the government, wrote that 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. This de-licensing will prevent telcos from competing effectively with operators providing services using unlicensed spectrum or acquired through light touch regulation as recommended by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). 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 E & V band by few countries was mainly in the pre-5G era.

As per COAI, 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.

Meanwhile, telcos have urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure optimum availability of spectrum in the 3300-3600 mid band earmarked for 5G services. According to them, the current availability of 175 MHz for all service providers is grossly inadequate and would adversely impact the 5G rollout in the country.

In this regard, COAI said that Indian telcos can make themselves ready for 5G when at least 80MHz per telco is identified in the 3.5GHz band. In addition, COAI has also urged the DoT to ensure at least 400 MHz per telco in mmwave bands (26, 28, 37 GHz) and at least 2x10MHz per operator in sub-GHz bands 600MHz and 700MHz.