Too Many Players Eyeing Spectrum

by Sonal Desai    Nov 17, 2006

The government of India is not clear about its intentions as to what it wants to do with the spectrum once defence forces vacate it by the end of 2007. This uncertainty might pose difficulties for the third generation (3G) players in India. For this, suggestions have already started pouring in from different quarters.

Although semi conductor majors like Texas Instruments are very excited about it, players in the application area want the government to clearly outline the policies.

Kathuria, VP & GM, India for Starent Networks wants the government to speed up procedures. He said the government should facilitate proper and just distribution of spectrum to all players in the field. When asked whether too many players will create difficulties he replied, “Carriers who have the capacity to invest in 3G technology should be given a chance.” On government policy, he maintained that it should be implemented fast, should be clearly laid out and should be transparent.

BSNL (Maharashtra circle) chief general manager, Kuldeep Goyal felt that the ideal thing would be to give the spectrum on a revenue sharing model.

To clear the 45 mega hertz spectrum for 3G technology, BSNL recently granted 591 crore project of deploying Multi Protocol Label Switches (MPLS) for the defence to HCL Infosystems.

The project will involve laying down MPLS based data network across India where BSNL will provide connectivity. HCL Infosystems will supply equipment and implement the project.

R. L. Dube, director, Planning and New Services at BSNL noted, “The network will be confined for the use of defence forces. At present, they use the radio system and other hybrid systems for communication. The project, to be completed in six to eight months involves laying down a complete fiber network.”

The technology will improve data, voice and video communication for defence personnel. The project will be implemented in phases. Larger locations will be first networked, followed by smaller ones. Data from these locations will be connected to a central focal point.

An inter ministerial committee recommendation dated August 2006 had asked BSNL and the department of defence to vacate spectrum bands, including those of 3G to fuel growth of mobile services. The deadline to vacate the spectrum is end 2007.

Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran has said that India expects to launch 3G mobile telephone services in the second half of 2007. In an industry conference he said, “The process for introducing 3G service has already been initiated and we expect to launch 3G services by the latter half of 2007.” India recently allowed four major carriers, including Bharti Airtel to conduct indoor trials of mobile services based on the 3G spectrum to test equipments.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has finalized recommendations for pricing and allocation of 3G spectrum and submitted those to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT).

B V Raman, country head, CDMA Development Group, India lamented the delay in the project and said, “We have already been delayed by an year. If the defence does not vacate the spectrum as per the deadline, the project will be further delayed. However, there is no indication whether this spectrum will be available and whether services can take off.”

He added, “Too many players are vying for too little space. At present, 25 mega hertz of space is available and the area is already congested. We need clear policies to define this issue. Spectrum awards and elimination should be transparent else the project will be mired in litigations, leading to further delays.”