India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hand UMTS spectrum to seven operators to begin trials of 3G mobile services in 17 cities, according to local paper The Hindu. Bharti Airtel, Aircel Cellular, Idea Cellular, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Reliance Telecom and Hutchison Essar are to receive spectrum in the 2100MHz band for the trial of W-CDMA services in Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Chennai, Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar, Shillong, Jammu, Shimla, Patna, Guwahati, Siliguri, Pune, Hyderabad, Howrah, Chandigarh and Kolkata. The newspaper added that CDMA operators are expected to be handed 1900MHz frequencies to begin 3G trials by January 2008.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in September 2006 the DoT confirmed that it had given four cellcos permission to trial 3G services on a limited basis. BSNL, MTNL, Bharti Airtel and Hutchison were given a temporary limited allocation of 3G frequencies with which to test services in closed campuses for technical assessment only. Last month the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) identified the 450MHz, 800MHz and 2100MHz bands to be utilised for 3G cellular services. In addition, the TRAI said it will make the 1900MHz band available for CDMA-based operators to pilot 3G services. It had originally said the allocation of the 1900MHz spectrum would be delayed on the grounds of ‘non-availability in a short term time frame’ and ‘technical issues’. It was also reported that the country’s GSM operators had objected to the use of the band on the grounds that it would create interference with their existing cellular services.