3G spectrum to be auctioned
NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is understood to have decided to recommend auction of spectrum for the launch of next generation (3G) mobile services.
Trai is in process of making recommendations to the department of telecommunications (DoT) on how to allocate spectrum to mobile operators for 3G services.
According to sources, Trai has concluded that since spectrum is a scarce commodity, it should be allocated only through an auction process.
To begin with, Trai is of the view that only five mobile operators should be given the frequency. All these five operators should be among the existing players.
If these recommendations are accepted by DoT, then mobile operators having a pan-India presence stand a good chance of getting the permission and the required spectrum to start 3G services.
Currently Bharti Airtel, Hutch, Reliance Communications, the Tatas and BSNL are the five major operators who have a country-wide presence of mobile services. Among them, Reliance and Tata offer code division multiple access (CDMA)-based mobile services while the others operate GSM (Group System for Mobile) technology.
Licensing of 3G spectrum has been a contentious issue with different players calling for different methods of allocating it. While the Tatas favoured an auction route based on the highest revenue share offered, Reliance Communications had called for a fixed fee.
Some GSM operators said the total revenue take should be decided first and then divided among licensees equitably. Opinion was also divided on the frequency needed, with the Tatas favouring 1,900 Mhz and GSM operators 2,100 Mhz. Trai is understood to have suggested the 2,100 Mhz band for 3G mobile services.
Trai has also favoured the issuance of at least 10 licences for Wi-Max services for mobile operators. Wi-Max services are mainly used for data services and these operate under a different frequency band.
Wi-Max technology is being considered by telecom players for mobile broadband services.
Earlier this month DoT had allocated 3G spectrum on a trial basis to all GSM operators to carry out interface checks on a non-commercial basis. The trial spectrum was given for one month and was one-thousandth of the actual 3G spectrum capability.
It has to be used in a closed campus to see inter-operability of the interface with the existing system and is only for technical demonstration.
Trai is expected to submit its final recommendations to DoT by September 29, sources said.