COAI opposes direct 5G spectrum allotment to PSUs


Informist, Friday, Apr 1, 2022

By Jatin Grover and Sreejiraj Eluvangal

NEW DELHI/KOCHI – The Cellular Operators Association of India has opposed the move to reserve a part of fifth-generation wireless spectrum for state-owned telecom companies. Such a move, they fear, will curtail the chances of private players getting adequate spectrum in the auctions. The association represents major telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, and Vodafone Idea Ltd.

Reserving Spectrum For BSNL And MTNL Could Reduce The Availability To 200MHz Or 240 MHz, Depending On The Quantum Of Spectrum Granted To The Companies.

S.P. Kochhar, director general of the association, pointed to a recent ruling by India's apex telecom disputes redressal body that made it illegal for the government to apply different sets of rules for private telecom operators and public sector ones. 

"Of course we require level playing field in the industry and we (the government) should not reserve the spectrum for public sector companies," Kochhar told Informist. 

His views came on a day when the government repeated its intention to directly allocate spectrum to public sector companies such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.  

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha today, Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan said the government had approved to administratively allot spectrum to BSNL and MTNL to provide 5G services on the same principles as those followed for fourth-generation network services.

Private sector operators such as Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel have already announced they want at least 100 MHz each in this spectrum to launch 5G services, and if BSNL is also given a comparable amount, it would leave only enough spectrum for two operators at the auction.

The primary band for launching 5G wireless services in India will be the C-band or lower microwave band, where almost 300 MHz has been identified for the upcoming auction. However, reserving spectrum for BSNL and MTNL could reduce the availability to 200MHz  or 240 MHz, depending on the quantum of spectrum granted to the companies.

Interestingly, BSNL was also given special consideration during the allotment of 4G spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band in 2010. However, the company is yet to launch its 4G services, and expects to complete the testing of 4G equipment by the end of March. After that, it would take around six months to a year for commercial rollout of 4G services.  End

Edited by Avishek Dutta

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