Technology

Trai wants spectrum to be delinked from unified licensing

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, while agreeing with the objective of the government in its draft Telecom Policy for a Unified Licence regime in order to exploit the attendant benefits of convergence, says spectrum should be kept out of the purview of this licence.


Trai says spectrum should be separately available through a market driven process enabling the realisation of its appropriate value. The policy envisages making available adequate globally harmonised spectrum spectrum to ensure efficient delivery of telecom services through appropriate audit and refarming.


Even as Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had announced on 15 February that he had accepted the view of delinking spectrum from the unified licence, he had said ‘a final view on implementation of the Unified License Regime would be taken after receipt of detailed Guidelines and Terms and Conditions from Trai for Unified Licence including migration path for all existing licence(s) to Unified Licence.’


In the final recommendations on the New Telecom Policy announced by the Government in October 2011, Trai wants that additional 500 MHz spectrum to be made available for telecommunications services by the year 2017 and another 300 MHz by 2020 and says existing users of spectrum like Government departments, public sector, private sector and telecom service providers to alternate frequency bands or media should be moved, to make spectrum available for commercial telecom services.


Provision of broadband facility is a sine qua non for delivery of convergent services. A National Optic Fibre Network will be established, connecting all the Gram Panchayats in the first phase and all the villages/habitations in the second phase, both of which will be completed in a definite time frame. The policy also seeks to make available adequate spectrum for wireless broadband services.


Optic fibre network


Separately, the country has embarked upon a time bound programme of digitisation, with addressability of the cable TV network. With availability of optic fibre network as well a digital cable TV network, it is expected that the spread of fixed lines will increase significantly enabling Fixed-Mobile Convergence, thereby enhancing the spectrum utilisation which is a finite and scarce resource.


The National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012) also aims to introduce Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) in the country; actively encourage establishment and use of landlines based on optical fibre network and cable networks so as to promote Fixed-Mobile Convergence; and provide reliable and affordable broadband access in the country including in rural and remote areas by appropriate combination of optical fibre, wireless and other technologies.


Trai will periodically fix the minimum broadband download speeds of broadband to facilitate availability of broadband progressively at speeds higher than the laid down minimum.


The optical fibre network will be laid by an independent agency, initially up to the village Panchayat level and to be extended progressively in a time bound manner, to all villages and habitations having a population of more than 500 persons. Access to this Optical Fibre Network will be open, non-discriminatory and technology neutral.


Trai wants that enabling provisions should be incorporated in the current regulatory framework in order to facilitate utilisation of existing infrastructure including cable TV networks for extending high quality broadband services including in rural areas.


The aim will also be to ensure that all local content is hosted on servers located within the country; rationalise the duties levied on inputs and finished products and provide requisites incentives to ensure affordability of Customer premises equipment including modem; and provide appropriate tax benefits to telecom infrastructure provider companies.


Bridge digital mode via digitisation


In its aim to obliterate the digital divide between the rural and urban areas, Trai wants the government to ensure through coordination with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, a time bound digitisation of the cable industry in all the rural areas; and impose rural roll out obligations in all licenses where spectrum is being provided such that all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above are covered by the service providers.


While attracting foreign investment and foreign institutional investment, it should be ensured that intellectual property rights are protected; and clearances required for foreign direct investment should be expedited.


Trai wants penal powers of civil court


The regulator wants a review of the Trai Act with a view to addressing regulatory inadequacies/impediments in effective discharge of its functions; and to confer penal and enforcement powers to Trai, so as to enable it to protect the interest of consumers by ensuring compliance of its regulations/directions/orders by the service providers, in addition to conferring powers of civil court to enable the Authority to summon persons and receive evidence and also call for expert advice while conducting enquiry.


At the outset, it said telecommunications is no longer limited to voice. The evolution from analog to digital technology has facilitated the conversion of voice, data and video to the digital form. Increasingly, these are now being rendered through single networks bringing about a convergence in networks, services and also devices.


The telecom networks as information highways are capable of being used for distribution of various converged services, giving citizens access to not only voice communication but also information, entertainment and various applications that can significantly improve their lives. Once a mere communication device, telephone has now the potential of being an instrument of empowerment. There is need to reorient the telecommunication policy to exploit this potential and to foster a rapid and inclusive growth.


The Policy states: "It is now imperative to move towards convergence between telecom, broadcast and IT services, networks, platforms, technologies and overcome the existing segregation of licensing, registration and regulatory mechanisms in these areas to enhance affordability, increase access, delivery of multiple services and reduce cost. It will be a key enabler of equitable and inclusive growth. The policy aims to address and enable the coordinated action to respond to the dynamic needs resulting from confluence of telecom, broadcasting and IT sectors."

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