Telecom services in national capital may be disrupted partially from December due to delays by DoT in fresh spectrum allocation to leading operators Airtel and Vodafone, according to sector regulator TRAI. Also Read - Airtel 5G Mumbai trials show download speeds of 1.2Gbps, upload at 850Mbps
These operators, which have about 20 million mobile subscribers on their network in Delhi or 45 percent of the total subscriber base here, have bought spectrum as their current licences are expiring by November-end. “DoT should immediately call a meeting of both (Airtel, Vodafone) and arrive at a feasible solution so that consumers’ inconvenience can be avoided,” TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar said in the letter. Airtel and Vodafone have purchased fresh spectrum through auctions that were held in February 2014 as their permits are due to expire this November. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAI
The two companies had 8 Mhz spectrum each in premium 900 Mhz band but Airtel could win back only 6 Mhz and Vodafone 5 Mhz of spectrum. The two companies bought some spectrum in 1800 Mhz band to make up for spectrum they lost in 900 Mhz band. Mobile signals transmitted in 900 Mhz band cover almost double area compared to signals transmitted in 1800 Mhz band. “As reported by these telecom services providers, this whole exercise of change over of frequencies will need to be carried out in two stages…the above change over will be a huge challenge as all these changes are to be carried out in a live network…any lapse may result in service interruption,” Khullar said. Also Read - Let our firms take part in 5G trials, China tells India
He said that Idea Cellular, which has won 5 Mhz in 900 Mhz band, has to assign frequencies after Airtel and Vodafone vacate the same. While DoT has issued Vodafone spectrum on October 10 after a delay of 8 months, it is yet to assign all frequencies to Airtel. “The Authority is unable to understand the reasons for this inordinate delay in the assignment of spectrum despite the clear provision,” Khullar said. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had earlier recommended that operators be assigned spectrum 18 months before expiry of their licences so that they can make necessary changes in their network without compromising on quality of service.
Vodafone has informed regulator that it would need a week to deploy 1800 Mhz frequency assigned to it, nine weeks to free 3 Mhz spectrum in 900 Mhz band that it lost and three weeks for changing frequencies in the same band that are presently being held by Airtel.
Telecom operators paid for spectrum in the first week of March. The DoT has started allocating spectrum to companies this month but is yet to completely assign all frequencies, specially in Delhi to mobile operators. “The authority is seriously concerned that this delay on the part of WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination) in assigning spectrum in the 1800 Mhz band may lead to a partial breakdown of services offered by these two (Airtel, Vodafone) especially in Delhi, the national capital,” Khullar said. The letter from TRAI comes after telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India and telecom operators individually wrote to DoT for immediate assignment of spectrum.