TRAI seeks clarifications with regard to spectrum allotted to Defence

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to clarify whether discussions with Defence to release one block of 5 MHz is for the same block which has been already auctioned in five out of 22 LSAs or the discussion would result in release of one more block of spectrum, thus, making two blocks of spectrum available

for auction.


The letter from TRAI Secretary Sudhir Gupta follows a letter received from the WPC Wing asking TRAI to provide recommendations on: (a) Applicable reserve price for 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands for all the service areas in both the cases, that is, spectrum available in entire service area and spectrum partially available in any service area; (b) Auction of the right to use of spectrum in a band with varying validity periods (less than 20 years) so that expiry of validity period of right to use of spectrum in a band in a service area occurs at same time.


TRAI has asked the DoT to provide information/ clarifications relating to the 2100 MHz band.


The WPC has informed that at present no vacant spectrum is available with the DoT in 2100 MHz band and discussions with Defence are underway for release of one block of 5 MHz of spectrum. In its recommendations on 'Valuation of Reserve Price of Spectrum: Licenses Expiring in 2015-16' dated 15 October, TRAI had mentioned that the DoT has assigned the fifth block of 5 MHz in the 2100 MHz band in 5 LSAs and in the remaining 17 LSAs, the spectrum is available with the DoT.


The Authority in its recommendations also recommended that entire 2X60 MHz in the 2100 MHz band should be made available for commercial use. If required, Defence may be assigned spectrum in the 1900 MHz band (1910-1920/1980-1990 MHz). It was further recommended

that this matter is of utmost importance, therefore it must be taken up at the highest level and the vacant 3G slots should be put to auction along with the spectrum in 900 and 1800 MHz bands.


In the letter, Gupta says TRAI will not be in a position to go ahead with the consultation process in the absence of full information with regard to total availability of the spectrum in the 2100 MHz band. Therefore, DoT is requested to indicate the decision regarding the above at the earliest.


With regard to 2300 MHz band, the auction was conducted in June 2010 and two blocks across the 22 service areas were sold. However, even after four and half years of assignment of spectrum, no Telecom Service Provider has actually done any worthwhile rollout.


Therefore, the Authority would like to know if in spite of such poor utilisation of earlier auctioned spectrum even after more than four years, the DoT believes that there will be takers for this spectrum at this point of time.


TRAI had in a letter on 8 March 2013 informed DoT that in ten service areas, the guard band available between the spectrum assigned to different BWA spectrum holders is just 2.5 MHz, and this may result in severe interference in asynchronous TOO networks. TSPs have also suggested that the solution to the problem of interference in such a scenario can either be achieved by use of similar frame configuration (for uplinking and downlinking) or rearranging the assigned frequencies, so as to have a wider guard band.


According to the present proposal of DoT, in 6 more LSAs, the guard band between different

TSPs will reduce to 2.5 MHz.


TRAI has also said that DoT may like to inform whether any study in this regard has been conducted to examine the concerns expressed by TSPs; and if so, DoT's decision on this issue.


Referring to the 2500 MHz band, TRAI says this band is very important and unique in the sense that it provides a substantial amount of spectrum (190 MHz) that has been allocated on a primary basis in all three International Telecommunications Union regions for terrestrial mobile communication. As per ITU-R recommendations there are three recommended frequency arrangements in this band. Most countries have followed an approach aligned with ITU Option I band plan (C1). The frequency spots in 2500 MHz band as shown in the annexure to the DoT letter are at variance with the Option I band plan of ITU which may result in the non-optimal use of the spectrum for all time to come. The decision on harmonisation of this band is pending for an inordinately long time.


TRAI says there is urgent need to decide the issue so that this band can be used optimally for commercial as well as strategic purposes.


According to current trends, the 700 MHz/800 MHz spectrum band known as the digital dividend frequencies and these bands are the ideal complement to 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz spectrum band using carrier aggregation techniques for LTE and LTE advanced technologies. The Authority in its recommendations of 15 October 2014 has recommended that the Government should announce the roadmap for auction of 700 MHz band before conduct of the upcoming auctions. The DoT may decide whether it wants to go ahead with the auction of spectrum in 2500 MHz band before conducting the auction in 700 MHz band.


The letter says that DoT may also please confirm that it would like to go for auction without harmonising the band, in spite of the aforementioned implications.


Referring to the validity period of right to use spectrum, TRAI has requested DoT to inform the 'effective date' of spectrum assignment for both administratively-assigned spectrum and auction-assigned spectrum for all TSPs in each of the service areas. It has also been noted that rollout obligation of TSPs is linked with the spectrum assignment that has been allocated for 20 years. Changes in the validity period will disturb the rollout obligations linked with the various spectrum auctions since 2010. DoT may indicate how rollout obligations are going to be ensured, going forward.


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