The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will release spectrum sharing and trading guidelines only after the spectrum auctions. This is likely to cause a delay in the introduction of the spectrum guidelines until then.
The DoT’s delay in releasing spectrum sharing guidelines could add to telecom operators’ woes. Recently, The DoT would come out with new guidelines for telecom spectrum trading and sharing by December, communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said during a Press conference on Saturday to mark the first 100 days of the NDA government.
Earlier, an internal committee of DoT had fixed a deadline of December 19, 2014 to issue the final norms. Also, the Ministry of Communications and IT had announced the release of spectrum trading and sharing guidelines by the December 2014.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had in July released the much awaited guidelines on sharing of spectrum frequencies in all bands among telcos, to optimally use limited spectrum. Currently mobile operators are allowed to share network infrastructure like mobile towers, which has helped them reduce costs, but not spectrum.
TRAI had said that spectrum in different bands of spectrum will be sharable provided both the licensees are having spectrum in the same band. The government is also planning to complete the National Optical Fibre Network by 2017. This would provide broadband services in all 2.5 lakh panchayats at an estimated cost of `20,000 crore.
TRAI had recommended that 2G, 3G and 4G bands can be shared, provided the operators have spectrum in the same band. Telecom companies aren’t allowed to lease spectrum. The regulator had said that telcos can transfer spectrum across all bands of all airwaves, as long as they were purchased via auctions in 2010 or later. The telecom watchdog also suggested a lock-in period of two years for spectrum trading.
According to telecom companies, spectrum sharing, trading, merger and buyout rules would help smaller companies find ways to merge or exit the sector. Several operators are already reeling under high debt due to intense competition and price war that occurred during the 2010 spectrum auctions.