02:00 pm - Saturday 18 November 2017

Telecom Commission calls for special meet tomorrow over refarming spectrum

By Parvina Purkayastha - Tue Oct 30, 11:29 am

It needs to take a final decision before the auction scheduled on November 12

Telecom Commission, government’s highest policy decision-making body for the sector is to meet on Wednesday to discuss the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the spectrum refarming issue. The meeting will also discuss TRAI’s recommendations on the prescribed limit for spectrum, retention of spectrum on renewal of licences and telecom security policy, among others.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had referred the refarming issues to TRAI. This was after Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on telecom needed to consult TRAI before a final decision on this issue.

In its earlier meeting on October 18, the EGoM deferred a decision on refarming the 900 MHz spectrum. It needs to take a final decision before the auction scheduled on November 12, as decided by the Supreme Court. It has already sought detailed analysis on the issue so that it could take a final decision by November 5.

The prime issues includes feasibility and desirability, logistics, prescribed limit for spectrum and its quantity, relevance and applicability after introduction of the market-driven pricing policy, relevance of the limit of spectrum retention on payment of the current price at the time of renewal of licences and amount of spectrum to be auctioned under the 1,800 MHz band.

After the previous EGoM meeting, Ahluwalia wrote to Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who heads the EGoM, that the panel should seek further TRAI’s advice on the logistics of an orderly migration of services presently being provided in the 900 MHz band into 1800 MHz or any other bands, before the due date of expiry of the present licenses beginning in 2014.

Though all stakeholders had agreed on the need for refarming, they wanted more consultation on the details. It was also mentioned that the Telecom Commission had never considered a detailed paper on the best method, taking into consideration the international experience.

In 2010, TRAI had recommended refarming of the 900 MHz band as one of three measures to choose from. The Cabinet has already permitted refarming as part of the new telecom policy. The three measures are: Permitting operators to retain up to 5 MHz of spectrum, allowing them to retain only 2.5 MHz, and refarming all spectrum.

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