Long- awaited spectrum sharing policy (pooling of spectrum held by the two operators for simultaneous use) for Indian mobile operators can soon be a reality, as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its final recommendations to DoT.
If we can go back, in 2010 & 2011 TRAI published their views on spectrum sharing among operators. Due to various causes DoT did accept them partly and there were many disagreement between two government agencies and ultimately spectrum sharing continues to be a wishlist item for the industry. Allowing spectrum sharing means there will be spectral efficiency, greater capacity & subsequent cost effective business case.
Highlights of TRAI’s recommendation on spectrum sharing:
1. It can be done between two licensees.
2. Leasing of spectrum is not allowed.
3. It is limited to circle-wise and band-wise.
4. 800/900/1800/2100/2300/2500 Mhz – all bands are allowed for spectrum sharing.
5. Operators can use any technology – 2G/3G/4G or GSM/CDMA under the sharing, provided spectrum acquired through an auction (2010 or after) or where market price has been paid.
6. Two operators to share the airwave, have to inform DoT’s WPC 45 days before the operation starts. WPC may raise questions if there is some objections and even cancel the validation of the deal. During the intimation both parties have to pay non-fundable Rs 50,000 each for each circle to WPC.
7. The Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) of each licensee should also increase by 0.5% of AGR (adjusted gross revenue).
8. Both operators should maintain their roll out obligation, QoS and other rules & regulations.
9. 50% of the spectrum held by the other licensee in the band being shared should be counted as additional spectrum being held by the licensee.
Effect on Indian telecom:
Most operators will be beneficial. The incumbent A-Vo-Id group will make several agreements – for 3G & 2G in metros & urban areas to counteract heavy load on their both 2G and 3G networks. With the merged spectrum there will hardly be any call drop or inactive data session. At the same time this recommendation do not validate 3G ICRA among the three operators, as operators can enter into spectrum sharing agreement if their spectrum are present in same band and same circle.
Tata Docomo, Aircel and Reliance are the 2nd pole of the industry and they are definitely utilize this opportunity as cost cutting measurement. Their 2G and 3G offering will be boosted on both quality and quantity. Rcom recently started offering 3G in another 5 circles via ICRA. 3G ICRA is at present under court ruling, but with this recommendations from TRAI it is to be closed down. Another smaller player Uninor will also try to increase their service quality with this. MTS and Tata Docomo are already in roaming pact, and we can hope the relation between two serious CDMA players to grow stronger.
Reliance is not much caring its CDMA business, many users complain of zero network on CDMA from different parts of the country. On datacard front Rcom’s Netconnect+ lost the battle against aggressive MTS & Tata Photon+. Even we can’t guess what Rcom will do with their CDMA assets.
Reliance Jio will not have much benefit as they can not use Rcom’s 800/2100 Mhz band directly, but may be via MVNO route. As Jio made a multiple infra sharing deal with Airtel, both can share 1800/2300Mhz spectrum though Jio has enough (20Mhz) on 2300Mhz band and yet to announce plans to use 1800Mhz band.