Commission seeks clarity on TRAI spectrum recommendations

23 Apr 2015

The Telecom Commission, India’s highest decision-making body for the telecoms sector, has rejected initial recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) concerning rules on spectrum sharing and trading, the Economic Times reports. The Commission sought clarifications on a number of issues, an official from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was cited as saying, adding that the TRAI is expected to provide a response within the next 15 days, with the finalised rules due to be made public a month after that. India’s mobile operators are chomping at the bit for clear guidelines on spectrum sharing and trading, with cellcos keen to explore means of maximising their spectrum holdings, especially given the high price paid for the resources: the most recent spectrum auction (March/April 2015) cost providers a total of USD17.5 billion, whilst the preceding sale (February 2014) saw the nation’s cellcos fork out USD9.9 billion. The uncertainty surrounding spectrum rules is also holding back consolidation in the market, with operators unwilling to risk being forced to return the spectrum holdings of their acquisitions.

The TRAI has reportedly recommended that frequency sharing in all bands be permitted, with the caveat that sharing can only take place between operators with frequencies in the same band. For example, two cellcos with 900MHz airwaves could pool their resources but if one did not have spectrum in that band, it could not make use of the other’s 900MHz frequencies. The TRAI is also understood to have proposed that operators be permitted to trade spectrum, although a two-year lock in period was also suggested, preventing operators from exchanging frequencies for at least 24 months after acquiring the airwaves at auction.