Sectoral regulator TRAI has reiterated most of its recommendations on spectrum sharing and trading guidelines while clarifying that airwaves acquired through trading can also be shared. Also Read - Let our firms take part in 5G trials, China tells India
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stood by recommendations of allowing operators to share all spectrum including 3G. The Department of Telecom (DoT) had sought clarification regarding sharing of 3G spectrum as TRAI in 2010 had recommended that the airwaves cannot be shared but later the regulator changed its stance. Also Read - DoT permits telecom service providers to go ahead with 5G trials
The regulator in its response said the basic objective of spectrum sharing is to provide an opportunity to telcos to pool their spectrum holdings and thereby improve spectral efficiency. “Therefore, the Authority does not find any plausible reason to exclude spectrum in 2100 MHz band from the list of the spectrum bands that can be shared,” it added. Also Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
The DoT had in April sought clarifications from TRAI regarding spectrum sharing and trading guidelines. The response of TRAI will now be placed before Telecom Commission, which will deliberate on the matter. The DoT had also asked TRAI to clarify whether spectrum acquired through trading can also be shared. Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg in April had said that the guidelines will be out by June. TRAI also stood by its proposal of not allowing Internet service provider (ISPs) to share spectrum saying that sharing of spectrum is a new concept.
“Therefore, to begin with, spectrum sharing, may be allowed only for the access service providers (CMTS/UASL/UL (AS)/UL with authorisation of Access Service),” TRAI said. The DoT had said that licensees having access spectrum as defined in UL will be permitted to share the spectrum in an LSA. “Apart basic CMTS/UASL/UL (AS) licensees, ISPs may also be included as eligible,” DoT said. The DoT had also asked TRAI to explain logic for recommending processing fee of Rs 50,000 only on each telecom operator involved in spectrum sharing, on which the regulator said, “The processing fee is being imposed to cover the administrative charges. Therefore, the Authority has recommended a nominal amount of Rs 50,000 as processing fees.”
TRAI agrees with the DoT regarding the roll-out obligations with respect to licence conditions including for lawful interception and security shall be the individual responsibility of each licensee. “Being part of the licence, both licensees shall also be bound with the roll-out obligations and QoS norms,” TRAI said. The regulator also agrees with DoT that the period of 30 days shall be reckoned with effect from date of issue of notice by the Government to resolve the cases of harmful interference.
Regarding spectrum usage charge (SUC) post sharing, TRAI maintained that that SUC for all auctioned spectrum should be at a flat rate of 3 percent of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of wireless services. The regulator said as far as SUC in case of spectrum sharing is concerned, the SUC rate of each of the licensees post-sharing shall increase by 0.5 percent of AGR. “Keeping the SUC regime simple and unambiguous is one of the foremost objectives of this recommendation,” it added.
On spectrum cap, the regulator stood by its recommendations that instead of counting entire shared spectrum as total airwaves holding of an operator, only 50 percent of the spectrum held by the other licensee in the band being shared shall be counted as the additional spectrum being held by the company. Spectrum cap rule is meant to restrict dominance of a telecom operator to ensure competitive environment in a service area in interest of consumers.
As per spectrum cap rule, a company cannot hold more than 25 percent of total spectrum assigned to all companies in a circle and over 50 percent of total spectrum assigned in a particular frequency band.