The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) which had previously made recommendations to the DoT over administrative allocation of the spectrum being a policy decision, is now urging the government to look at spectrum as a scarce natural resource, said an ET Telecom report. As per the sector regulator, the government should look at various departments and agencies which are holding the spectrum so that it can be used effectively in a commercial manner. Trai chairman, RS Sharma also made comments on the same on how the government should be conducting this analysis to acquire knowledge about the spectrum being held in various bands.
Administrative Spectrum Allocation Should be Audited: Trai
Trai chairman, Ram Sewak Sharma said in this regard, “In order to ensure the availability of spectrum and appropriate utilisation, the Department of Telecom (DoT) should carry out studies on its usage and necessity so that various departments holding a scarce resource can use it in a right manner.” What’s not known commonly is that almost 60% of the total identified spectrum is held by agencies who do not operate in the telecom space. These include applications in FM Radio, DTH TV, satellite, space communication, aeronautical communication, and defence communication services. As per the regulator’s saying if this spectrum is no put to good commercial use, it would mean financial loss for the government and not only this but not using this natural resource would mean hindering the economic and social development of the country.
As per the regulator’s opinion, the natural resource should be deployed suitably, and the radio waves which are currently open for sale should be used for commercial purposes. To recall, during its recommendations in August last year to the government, Trai had iterated that many government agencies were allotted spectrum administratively and given that it should be put to good use. The regulator had also pointed towards a likely audit in some cases where it suspected that the spectrum was not being used viably.
Telcos Demand for More Spectrum as Data Demand Surges
In recent times, the telecom industry is facing a new kind of hurdle since the operators are demanding for more spectrum to be available for auction. This demand has mostly been driven because of the surging data usage and the expected arrival of fifth generation services in the country or 5G. On multiple occasions, service providers have blamed unavailability of sufficient spectrum for poor service quality and issues like call drops and slow data speeds.
Trai had earlier said, “There is an urgent need of audit for all allocated spectrum both commercial as well as spectrum allocated to various public sector undertakings or government organisations. This should be done by an independent agency.”
On the other hand, government agencies like the department of space and broadcasting were against the idea of sharing details about spectrum utilisation as reported by an industry source. However, as per the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), 87.5Mhz-108MHz spectrum band is put to use by FM radio broadcasts, 230Mhz -450Mhz is kept aside for satellite communication, aeronautical navigation and outdoor broadcast vans, whereas 585Mhz -698Mhz is taken for TV broadcast and 2170Mhz-2300Mhz is for satellite and space communications.