Spectrum sharing can be acquired through trading, says TRAI

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reiterated its views on spectrum sharing and said additional capacities created through spectrum sharing cannot be counted at par with those created through spectrum acquired through auction/trading.

In its response to some clarifications sought by the Department of Telecom on the regulator’s recommendations on spectrum sharing, TRAI said it is essential to ensure that both the licensees pool (combine) their spectrum resources and also use it simultaneously; otherwise it would be akin to spectrum leasing. Therefore, it is required to define the spectrum sharing the way it has been recommended.

Sharing of spectrum is a new concept. Therefore, to begin with, spectrum sharing, may be allowed only for the access service providers (CMTS/UASL/UL (AS)/UL with authorization of Access Service).

The Authority said for the purpose of charging Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC), the licensor shall consider that the licensees are sharing their entire spectrum holding in the particular band in the entire LSA. Regarding applicable rate of SUC, it said it had given some recommendations but it shall be up to the licensees to decide the actual area/BTSs in the LSA where they want to pool and share their spectrum resources as per their requirement and mutual agreement.

All access spectrum - in the bands of 800/900/1800/2100/ 2300/2500 MHz - will be sharable provided that both the licensees are having spectrum in the same band.

TRAI reiterated that spectrum acquired through trading can also be shared. It had said in its main recommendations that two licensees can share their spectrum holding in the 1800 MHz band because both of them have spectrum in this band. However, they cannot share spectrum in 900 MHz or 2100 MHz band because only one of them has spectrum in these bands.

A licensee shall not be eligible to share its spectrum if it has been established that it is in breach of terms and conditions of the licence and the licensor has ordered for revocation/termination of its licence after giving appropriate opportunity.

The Authority is of the opinion that after finalisation of guidelines of spectrum sharing, the DoT may carry out appropriate modifications in the various clauses of the relevant licenses.

The basic objective of spectrum sharing is to provide an opportunity to the TSPs to pool their spectrum holdings and thereby improve spectral efficiency. Sharing can also provide additional network capacities in places where there is network congestion due to a spectrum crunch. Liberalisation of spectrum is related to the liberty to use any technology.

Therefore, the Authority has recommended that if any one or both of the licensees, sharing their spectrum have administratively assigned spectrum in that band then, after sharing, they will be permitted to provide only those services which can be provided through the administratively held spectrum.

The issue of liberalisation of 900 MHz band spectrum is not related to spectrum sharing guidelines.

The Authority is of the view that it is not required that prior to sharing of administratively assigned spectrum market price has to be paid for such spectrum.

The Authority did not find any plausible reason to exclude spectrum in 2100 MHz band from the list of the spectrum bands that can be shared.

Both the licensees are required to fulfil specified roll-out obligations and prescribed Quality of Service norms. Moreover, subsequent to sharing the licensees can offer only those services which they can offer through their own spectrum holding. To fulfil all these required obligations, the licensee itself can determine the minimum spectrum holding that it is required to hold.

The Authority agreed with the view of the DoT that all obligations with respect to license conditions including for lawful interception and security shall be the individual responsibility of each licensee. Being part of the licence, both licensees shall also be bound with the roll-out obligations and QoS norms.

The processing fee is being imposed to cover the administrative charges. Therefore, the Authority has recommended a nominal amount of Rs 50,000 as processing fees.

The TRAI also agreed that the period of 30 days for resolving any interference shall be reckoned with effect from date of issue of notice by the Government to resolve the cases of harmful interference.

Keeping in view the complexities involved in determining the SUC for various quantum of spectrum acquired through different methodologies, the Authority in its recommendations dated 9 September 2013 had recommended that SUC for all auctioned spectrum should be at a flat rate of 3 per cent of AGR of wireless services.

As far as SUC in case of spectrum sharing is concerned, the Authority has recommended that the SUC rate of each of the licensees post-sharing shall increase by 0.5 per cent of AGR. Keeping the SUC regime simple and unambiguous is one of the foremost objectives of this recommendation. 

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