Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT, known locally as KemKominfo) has revealed plans to hold a limited tender of unused spectrum in the 2100MHz and 2300MHz band by the middle of this year. MCIT minister Rudiantara is on record as saying that he expects the terms and conditions of the tender process to be made available by end-March, with the successful winners being unveiled by mid-year, local press report. The auction is being limited to existing mobile operators, he said. The lower band is reserved for 3G services and is currently used by Telkomsel, Indosat Ooreedoo, XL Axiata and Hutchison 3 Indonesia (Tri), while the higher 2.3GHz band is used for 4G wireless broadband services in certain parts of the country. It is understood that KemKominfo will reallocate the unused frequencies relinquished by Axis Telekom Indonesia following its takeover by XL Axiata in 2014. In addition, around half of the 30MHz ‘free’ bandwidth at 2300MHz is also expected to be sold to help operators alleviate a lack of resources – particularly in major cities.
In October 2016 CommsUpdate reported on KemKominfo’s initial preparation work which it says will be carried out via the Directorate General of Post and Information (SDPPI). At the time, SDPPI director general Ismail was quoted as saying that it faces a challenge to resolve the issue of ‘the crisis of spectrum’ shortage in Indonesia, suggesting that an additional 350MHz of new frequencies are needed to meet future demand for internet access. Dr Ismail noted that one measure is likely to be refarming, as well as opening the field to new technologies – in part to help develop network infrastructure in underserved rural communities. Whilst he conceded that coverage is being ramped up in urban areas, the director general admitted that other areas face ‘a crisis of mobile infrastructure’ that needs to be addressed.
Mobile network operators have been clamouring for KemKominfo to launch a tender for additional spectrum blocks in the 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz band for 3G services. Telkomsel for one has argued that its ratio of subscribers per megahertz is among the highest in Asia. ‘For us, the additional spectrum is considered not only important but critical to Telkomsel,’ said the cellco’s VP of Technology and Systems, Ivan C Permana. He adds that without the additional frequency blocks, any attempt to invest in 3G and 4G rollouts in rural areas is likely to be delayed as it focuses instead on trying to deepen coverage in cities and towns. ‘Wastage such as this could have been avoided if the government had already allocated additional spectrum to Telkomsel,’ he notes. According to local sources, there is 10MHz (2100MHz) and 30MHz (2300MHz) unallocated, while the second auction of spectrum refarming is currently awaiting completion at 1900MHz and 800MHz.