COAI jumps the gun on defence spectrum, pushes for sale of MoD frequencies

22 Oct 2013

GSM industry lobby group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to fast track the sale of 3G frequencies expected to be freed up by a spectrum swap with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Economic Times writes. The MoD has agreed to consider a proposal that would see the ministry exchange 15MHz of spectrum in the 2100MHz band for 15MHz in the 1900MHz range, a move that would reportedly give the armed forces a contiguous block of frequencies. Whilst the plans are yet to be green-lit by the MoD, the COAI has already begun pushing for the DoT to suggest a reserve price for the frequencies. The additional spectrum would be a boon to the 3G segment, which has suffered from a shortage of frequencies, spread thinly amongst operators. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that no single operator was able to win pan-India spectrum for 3G in 2010, leading providers to augment their limited footprints via roaming agreements with rival cellcos, although in December 2011 the government reversed its position and declared the practice illegal. The affected operators challenged the u-turn, but in April 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the DoT, banning the selling of 3G services outside of a provider’s licensed operating area, with a minor concession that cellcos could continue to serve existing customers via the now-illegal roaming deals.