4G spectrum auctions will take place from March 1, 2021, in India. Telcos have had to wait 5 years for the auction. The last spectrum auction took place in October 2016. This is why the government is now looking for a better way to allocate spectrum to operators other than just relying on auctions. Auctions rarely see a huge percentage of the spectrum being sold. This results in a lot of it lying idle with the government. From the previous auctions to now, a ton of unsold spectrum has been lying idle with the government. There should be a solution introduced to make better use of this resource for ensuring better delivery of services to consumers — more on the story ahead.
Telcos Should be Allowed to Swap Spectrum
As per an ET Telecom report, KK Venugopal has advised the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to approach the Supreme Court (SC) for the same matter. This is because the necessary auction of all-natural resources which have value is based on the 2012 order of the SC.
It is worth noting that only 41% of the total spectrum put to auction by the government was sold in the previous auction. This means a substantial amount of spectrum has been sitting idle, which could enhance the quality of services in the country.
One of the telecom operators has suggested that the idle spectrum should be available for swapping. In simple words, whenever a telco wants spectrum in another unused/unsold band, it should be able to surrender the spectrum it holds and swap it with unused airwaves. The operator has even promised to make payment for the swapped spectrum.
At present, the telcos need to wait for the auctions to be able to buy new airwaves. But the swapping mechanism would make it easier for the telcos to gain access to unused spectrum and further result in the growth of the telecom industry.
The telecom department believes that the broader issue of spectrum allocation will also include E and V bands. For the unaware, these are backhaul airwaves used to help connect the network to nodes and then to towers for facilitating data transmission. Since the SC hasn’t distinguished between the bands, it now depends on the government on whether it makes them available in the upcoming auctions or not. The E and V bands are seen as important for 5G rollout, and the telcos have expressed about their wish for these bands to be auctioned.