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Defence could push Reliance Communications out from its current frequency spot

Kolkata,Praveena Sharma: Moving to different frequency spot possible for RCom, if telecom min makes available contiguous 4 carriers in the coming auction of CDMA spectrum band

Defence could push Reliance Communications out from its current frequency spot

Reliance Communications (RCom) may have to shift to a different frequency spot in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) service area if the telecom ministry makes available contiguous four carriers (of 1.25 megahertz each) in the CDMA spectrum band in the upcoming auction.

A note prepared by the Wireless Panning and Coordination (WPC) wing on defence’s requirement of CDMA carrier in the 800 megahertz (MHz) band for Mobile Cellular Communication System (MCCS) says while “allotment of two additional carriers to defence may be feasible,” it would not be possible to provide four carriers in contiguous blocks in the coming auction unless Reliance moved to a new frequency spot.

“To make available contiguous four carriers in this (J&K) service area for forthcoming auction, shifting the existing two carriers assigned to Reliance Communications would need to be carried out,” states the note.

Realignment of spectrum is common among telecom service providers to make it contiguous, which improves their quality of service by enhancing speed. It is done on payment of compensation to the telecom firm which migrates to a new frequency spot.

The WPC’s deduction that it is possible to allot the required additional carriers in the 800 MHz band to the defence also reduces the total quantum of spectrum that can be given for telecom services in the coming auction by 10MHz.

Since 2012, the defence has put forth its request for two additional CDMA carriers, in addition to its existing two carriers, in J&K for their MCCS. Over the years, they have increased this requirement to another four carriers in Northeast, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh (west and east), Bihar and West Bengal.

If the ministry were to accept the WPC wing’s conclusion, the defence would be able to meet its requirement at the cost of less spectrum being made available to telcos, who acquire it by bidding for them.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), in its recent recommendation on reserve price of spectrum in the 800 MHz band, has asked state-owned MTNL and BSNL to surrender their carriers in Mumbai and Delhi and some other circles to telcos. However, both the public sector undertakings (PSUs) have expressed their reluctance to give up their spectrum.

Ranjan Bannerjee, head, strategy function, SSTL, said it was too early to comment on impact of lesser spectrum put out for auction. He also said if the defence were to keep spectrum in some circles for itself, some telecom operators would have to vacate spectrum as the required airwaves for defence was not available in all areas.

Major players in this segment were Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited (SSTL), Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and Quadrant Televentures. Two auctions for spectrum in this band – in 2012 and 2013 – elicited lukewarm response. In the first one, when 95 MHz airwaves was put on the block, there were no bidders; the second one had just one participant – SSTL – who won 3.75 MHz (paired) in Delhi, Kolkata, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and UP (West).

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