In the recent development of events, the senior executives of India’s three private telcos – Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea (Vi) and Bharti Airtel have asked the government for the same action. The telcos have asked for the 5G bands, including those being used for 4G currently, to be put up for sale, reduce levies or extend the moratorium period in regards to the new airwaves. Moreover, Vi and Reliance Jio have also asked for equal opportunities meaning that no OTT or satellite should be preallotted the spectrum and all should bid as the telcos do.
The Dispute between Satcom and Telcos
Senior Vice President, Public Policy for Vi, Anjali Hans, has said in a statement during the ongoing India Mobile Congress (IMC) that for the entire digital ecosystem to flourish together, it is necessary to have the same service and same rules for all the parties. These comments come in the light of a battle between telcos and satellite firms where the latter has asked for allotment of spectrum for a fee and not through the auction. The telcos, on the other hand, want a level playing field which means that all the airwaves for communication services should go to the highest bidder.
Adding to this, Vice President, Head of Strategic Initiatives, Regulatory Policy and Research at Jio, Vishakha Saigal, has said in a statement that the company is all in for exploring the potential of satellite communication services; however, it should not come at the cost of existing terrestrial networks. She added that it should be ensured that there is a parity in policy and regulations.
The heavily regulated telcos in the country have also raised their voice against OTTs, which in the absence of any regulation, also provide similar communication services as operators. The sector’s regulator, TRAI’s secretary V Raghunandan has said that the future of the communication services has to be in coexistence.
The representatives of various telcos also mutually pushed for a reduction in levies to ensure seamless enhancement and expansion of the upcoming network. The reduction in levies includes license fees and GST, spectrum prices and much more. Vice President at Airtel, Tarun Chitraka, also said that whether it is lower band, mid or higher band, all the 5G bands should be auctioned so as to meet the requirements for the use cases. Jio further added that any unsystematic allocation of the spectrum would later result in network insufficiencies and ultimately higher costs for 5G.