India’s digital dividend spectrum up for grabs in 2012?

24 Mar 2011

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly kickstarted the sale process for spectrum in the 700MHz band, the Economic Times reports, with the regulator claiming that such frequencies are the ‘most efficient and cost-effective’ for delivering wireless broadband services. It is understood that the DoT has set a deadline of the end of this year for public television broadcaster Doordarshan and a number of other government agencies to vacate spectrum in the 700MHz band, with a view to selling off the frequencies in 2012. According to an internal note from the DoT seen by the Economic Times the vacation of 700MHz spectrum, alongside the freeing up of frequencies in other bands, is being carefully monitored by the regulator, as well as by the cabinet secretariat and the prime minister’s office.

With there being some 108MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band in India that can be used for commercial services, it is understood that around half of this is currently being utilised by Doordarshan, while the armed forces are in possession of approximately 36MHz of 700MHz spectrum; the remainder is held by other government agencies. The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is expected to be called on to work out the base price for any auction that is held, as well as deciding on the number of spectrum blocks that will be made available for sale.

Clarifying its thoughts on the allocation of spectrum in the 700MHz band the DoT’s internal note stated: ‘The early switch to digital broadcasting, which requires much less spectrum, can make valuable spectrum available for commercial use. This spectrum referred to as the digital dividend in the 700MHz band could be used for providing affordable mobile broadband services throughout the country.’