TRAI looks for ways to reduce cost of 3G rollout

9 May 2005

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is considering allocating spectrum in the IMT-2000 2Ghz frequency band for both GSM and CDMA wireless operators intending to launch 3G networks. A TRAI spokesperson said that the IMT 2000 standard is ideal for supporting both W-CDMA and CDMA2000-based rollout, and added that allocation of spectrum in both the USPCS 1.9Ghz and IMT-2000 bands was not desirable due to high network upgrade costs. The regulator also announced plans to set a zero entry fee for the IMT 2000 spectrum for the country’s existing operators to further reduce the cost of offering 3G services.

Cellcos Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Bharti Tele-Ventures have all initiated pilot 3G projects, but it is unclear which will be the first to launch services. Bharti says it intends to launch a national UMTS network over the next 18 to 20 months and plans to invest around USD1 billion in the upgrading of its current infrastructure. The company expects to be in a position to launch 3G services twelve months after it gets approval and appropriate spectrum allocation from the TRAI. Meanwhile, state-owned BSNL claims that it already has the necessary equipment to rollout a nationwide 3G network and is also waiting for the go-ahead from the regulator. Other wireless operators likely to enter the 3G market include Hutchison Telecommunications and Idea Cellular.