The Great Indian Spectrum Dispute

Discussion in 'Broadband' started by Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad, Aug 31, 2007.

  1. The Great Indian Spectrum Dispute
    By Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

    http://www.financialexpress.com/news/The-Great-Indian-Spectrum-Dispute/210194/1

    Published in Infrastructure Page of The Financial Express (http://
    www.financialexpress.com) in the issue of Tuesday, 14 August 2007.

    Copyright, 2007, Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

    International Publishing Rights in all media in all jurisdictions with
    Financial Express

    Reproduction and Forwarding in any manner is strictly prohibited, and
    will be prosecuted in criminal and civil courts without any warning
    whatsoever.

    Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad
    19 Maitri Apts, CIS Off Soc # 19
    A - 3, Paschim Vihar
    New Delhi 110 063

    Tel: 09990 265 822, 092 12 08 86 00

    ==========================================================

    The Great Indian Spectrum Dispute
    By Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

    http://www.financialexpress.com/news/The-Great-Indian-Spectrum-Dispute/210194/1

    The refusal of the armed forces to honour their commitment to vacate
    45 megahertz of electromagnetic spectrum in favour of cellular
    operators will adversely affect the spread of telecom among rural
    masses and the poorer sections of society. Cellular operators had been
    banking on this release of spectrum to expand their networks and add
    on more subscribers. Operators such as Idea and Aircel have not been
    able to commence their services in many areas several months after
    having been issued licenses due to lack of spectrum. Telecom Minister
    A Raja will meet Defence Minister AK Anthony next week to again
    petition him to keep his commitment to release the spectrum.

    Electromagnetic spectrum in India has been a very scarce resource,
    mainly due its occupation by the defence forces and intelligence
    agencies, who have been allocated vast swathes of spectrum. The Indian
    government has been grappling with the allocation among different
    government and public agencies since the 1920s. Soon after
    Independence, an ICS officer, LC Jain, got so fed up of the bickering
    between different government and public agencies (remember that there
    were no private sector users then) that he arbitrarily decreed that in
    each spectral band, one-third would be reserved for the armed forces
    and security agencies; one-third for various civilian ministries and
    international obligations such as aviation, meteorology, maritime
    applications, television and radio broadcasting, disaster
    communications, etc.; and the remaining one-third would be allocated
    on a case-by-case basis.

    The situation was further complicated because India's armed forces
    imported equipment from both the NATO countries as well as the Soviet
    Bloc. NATO had identified spectral bands (called the NATO bands) for
    its defence requirements. In NATO countries, civilian telecom
    operators were not permitted to operate in the NATO bands, and they
    operated in certain remaining parts of the spectrum, termed the Non-
    NATO bands. Indian telecom operators, such as the Department of
    Telecommunications, and later, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar
    Telephone Nigam Ltd, imported equipment from western manufacturers
    such as Lucent, Alcatel, Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola, and Nokia, which
    were in these non-NATO civilian bands. But a lot of the equipment
    which the Indian armed forces had imported from the Soviet Bloc, as
    well as indigenously manufactured equipment, fell into frequency bands
    which overlapped considerably with the civilian non-NATO bands,
    leading to extreme electromagnetic interference in several cases.

    The situation was further complicated by the entry of the private
    sector into cellular mobile services in 1992. The International
    Telecommunications Union had allotted the 880 to 915 MHz paired with
    925 to 960 MHz bands to GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
    operators worldwide. The ITU also allotted the 824 to 849 MHz paired
    with 869 to 894 MHz to CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access, a rival
    technology to GSM) operators. Later the ITU also allotted the 1710 to
    1785 MHz paired with 1805 to 1880 MHz bands to GSM operators in
    countries where the GSM 900 band had been wholly occupied.

    But in India, vast portions of these bands had been allotted - free of
    charge - to the defence forces and to the railways several decades
    earlier. The armed forces demanded several thousand crores as
    compensation to vacate their spectrum in
    favour of the GSM operators. Since the entire signalling system of the
    railways was plumb in the middle of these bands, the GSM operators had
    to work around these constraints. As a result, Indian GSM operators
    have far less spectrum (till now the maximum allotted to any Indian
    operator has been 10 megahertz, and many have only 4.4 megahertz) than
    their European counterparts, who are typically allotted 25 to 35
    megahertz.

    Western countries have successfully solved the problems of getting
    their defence forces to vacate spectrum in favour of civilian cellular
    operators. In USA, more than 200 megahertz has been transferred from
    the Pentagon to commercial operators through the Omnibus Budget
    Reconciliation Act of 1993. In UK, the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 bands were
    voluntarily surrendered by the UK Defence Ministry and refarmed to GSM
    operators. This refarming was also done in Germany where the defence
    forces were shifted to higher frequency bands. In France, the prime
    minister personally supervised an agreement in 1991 between the
    defence ministry and the French spectrum management authority by which
    50 MHz in the GSM 900 band and 150 MHz in the GSM 1800 band were
    refarmed in a phased manner to French GSM operators over a ten year
    period.

    In India, the situation is much more complicated due to Soviet Bloc
    equipment which are being used in several situations of great national
    importance. In 1998, the Indian Air Force demanded compensation of Rs
    140 crores to vacate spectrum in Gujarat and Maharashtra in favour of
    cellular operators, and Rs 205 crores for the North Eastern sector.

    In the present instance, the armed forces had demanded that BSNL build
    them an alternate, totally secure communications network, for them to
    release 45 megahertz to the cellular operators. They had estimated the
    cost of this network to be Rs 400 to 600 crores. But BSNL, which is
    supposed to deliver this network within the next couple of months,
    estimates the capital costs of this network to be Rs 6,000-8,000
    crores, with an additional annual operating expense of over Rs 1,000
    crores.

    Telecom Minister Mr A Raja has countered that if the armed forces do
    not release the spectrum immediately, he will bill them Rs 5,000
    crores as spectrum fees, whereas it has been given to them totally
    free of charge for the last century. It is learnt that a Group of
    Ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee will look into the disputes between
    the Defence and Telecom ministries.

    India could perhaps take a cue from China which also has a legacy of
    Soviet Bloc military equipment. China has managed to provide its state
    owned cellular operators with 90 MHz in the 900 band and 160 MHz in
    the 1800 band.

    Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad, an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon and IIT
    Kanpur, heads his own telecom consulting firm in New Delhi

    Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad
    Tel: 09990 265 822, 092 12 08 86 00


    Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad
    19 Maitri Apts, CIS Off Soc # 19
    A - 3, Paschim Vihar
    New Delhi 110 063

    Published in Infrastructure Page of The Financial Express (http://
    www.financialexpress.com) in the issue of Tuesday, 14 August 2007.

    Copyright, 2007, Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

    International Publishing Rights in all media in all jurisdictions with
    Financial Express

    Reproduction and Forwarding in any manner is strictly prohibited, and
    will be prosecuted in criminal and civil courts without any warning
    whatsoever.

    The Great Indian Spectrum Dispute
    By Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad

    http://www.financialexpress.com/news/The-Great-Indian-Spectrum-Dispute/210194/1
     
    Ravi Visvesvaraya Sharada Prasad, Aug 31, 2007
    #1
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