Jio, VIL pitch for Satcom spectrum allocation through auction; Airtel opposes

Jio, VIL pitch for Satcom spectrum allocation through auction; Airtel opposes

While the satellite industry has unanimously demanded spectrum allocation through administrative methods, major telecom firms Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, and Bharti Airtel offered divergent views to sector regulator Trai. The comments on a consultation paper on spectrum assignment for space-based communication by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India were made public on Friday.

Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea (VIL) have suggested that the spectrum for satellite communication services should be allocated through auction, while Bharti Airtel has opposed it. Reliance Jio has submitted that spectrum assignment between space-based and terrestrial networks must maximise public good and serve the greatest number of people. “There is no better method than free and fair auctions to achieve this goal. Auctioning spectrum is the most transparent method of spectrum assignment and allows service providers to decide on their technology, be it terrestrial, satellite, or any other,” Reliance Jio said.

It also said that the Supreme Court has unambiguously declared that the right to use such spectrum can only be transferred through a transparent auction and only the Apex Court can alter this policy on spectrum assignment. VIL said the spectrum from 27.5 GHz to 29.5 GHz (including 27.5 GHz to 28.5 GHz) should be put to a fair and transparent auction in line with the Supreme Court Judgment of 2012 and the principle of same service same rules. Bharti Airtel said that the auction of satellite spectrum will put Indian players at a disadvantage in comparison to the global competing operators, who simply pay an administrative fee for the resources required for providing the same service in other global markets.

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“Airtel is concerned that auctioning the satellite spectrum and creating an exclusiveness will create barriers for competition as competitors may block access to it by bidding and winning partial or full spectrum in spite of having no such global allocation, and make satellite systems redundant and severely hamper the emerging space ecosystem in the country,” it added. The company said that the auctioning spectrum and then creating a sharing mechanism is self-defeating. “It is akin to bringing an intermediary between the spectrum licensor and user licensee: There is no need to create a middle-entity (an intermediary) between the spectrum licensor…the satellite operators,” Airtel said.

It added that such an intermediary will have to initially buy the spectrum from the DoT and then, through a mandatory sharing mechanism, offer the same spectrum to actual satellite spectrum users. “This will bring in needless complexities since user satcom players will have to stitch multiple sharing arrangements together with different spectrum winners or owners,” Airtel said.Space industry body Indian Space Association (ISpA) said any step towards the auction of the spectrum for satellite services will represent a retrograde step away from fulfilling these objectives. “The features of satellite spectrum make them unsuitable for an auction process,” ISpA said.

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