The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has requested the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to extend the deadline for completion of 4G network rollouts by another five years. The government had allocated 4G spectrum to telecom service providers in the auction in 2010, with specific rollout targets for the spectrum winners.
The operators were supposed to achieve the network rollout within a five-year period which expires in 2015. In case telecom operators fail to meet the deadline of 2015, DoT will impose penalties on the companies.
“DoT is requested to review and relax the roll out obligations and extend the timelines for meeting the roll out by additional 5 years,” said Rajan S Mathews, COAI Director General in a letter to DoT. The Telecom industry body has cited difficulties in rolling out the LTE-TDD (a 4G technology) as among reasons for delay in roll out of 4G services.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) is industry lobby group that represents telcos that use the GSM technology platform. In 2010, six private operators and the two state-run telcos collectively paid almost Rs.40,000 crore for spectrum in the 2300MHz band to start 4G networks using the so-called TDD LTE (time-division duplex long-term evolution) technology standard.
Earlier this year, in the February spectrum auction, a number of telcos bought airwaves in the 1800MHz band to start 4G services using the FDD LTE (frequency division duplex-LTE) standard, which has ostensibly developed much faster than the rival TDD LTE standard. As a standard rule, all spectrum bought in the auction is valid for 20 years.
According to COAI, globally only 79 networks, out of 536 deploying 4G, are using the TDD LTE platform, and are still in the trial or testing stage. On the device side, COAI said that globally, there are only 361 devices supporting TDD LTE in the 2300 MHz band, out of 1,889 LTE devices; in comparison, there are 3,900 3G devices and more than 5,000 2G devices.
In India, there are only four TDD LTE handsets for the 2300 MHz band. So far, only Bharti Airtel and Aircel have been able to start its 4G services amongst all the telecom operators which won the spectrum in different circles. Meanwhile, players like Tikona and Augere are yet to announce their 4G plans. Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited is in the process to rollout the 4G network.