Recently TRAI released consultation paper on overall spectrum management & license issues. This could be cited as welcome step towards managing one of the most important natural resources available to country, Spectrum. And perhaps as stated in the paper, the issue of spectrum management is the most critical issue in deciding the future of telecommunication industry. Let’s go in brief about matters related to spectrum requirement & availability in present context.
Why do we need to think about spectrum management? Few main reasons could be:
- At present, where number of subscribers has crossed the mark of 4.3 billion, India is not behind. India has reported the robust growth in wireless segment, as total number of wireless subscribers has already crossed 450 million mark (By the end of Aug2009) and to provide better quality of services by maintaining the growth pace, there is need of availability of spectrum.
- With impending 3G/BWA auction in coming months, Wireless spectrum is going to be much sought after entity, as with auction of NGN services number of subscribers using spectrum are going to rise.
- Spectrum management is essential to ensure level playing field while encouraging the competition.
- The main issues of deliberation include identification of bands for commercial usage, assessment of demand of spectrum in future along with efficient use of the spectrum, which requires careful planning.
WPC (Wireless Planning Commission) has already identified different frequency bands for various wireless telecom services, which includes 450, 585-806, 800, 900, 1800 ,1900, 2100, 2300-2400 etc MHz bands along with few unlicensed spectrum bands for consideration of spectrum management.
Assessing the requirement:
According to the second committee report, which was constituted in June 2008, projected subscriber base will reach 1109 million subscribers by 2015, with estimated teledensity of 86% (Based on Gompertz Model), which needs to be catered with better quality of service in coming year. Also as per the TRAI consultation paper on MNP, authority has projected the wireless subscriber base till 2014 on CAGR to 1093 million, which needs to be addressed on per service area basis.
As cited in paper, Delhi NCR region is considered ideal for the exercise, with its projected sub base of 34 million, where Delhi is expected to attain teledensity of more than 150 % by 2014 and spectrum requirement is assumed to be highest in this area. This consultation paper also discusses the need of extra spectrum with present availability, along with redeployment, if any (Spectrum refarming) in each of above mentioned licensed bands identified by WPC. As per one estimate, out of 1161MHz of identified spectrum, a minimum of 287 MHz and a maximum of 454 MHz (approx.) only is presently available for commercial usage. From the projections made, it is observed that a total of 582 MHz (approx.) of spectrum will be required for mobile and broadband wireless services till 2014.
Also, there is need of spectrum refarming, as most of spectrum needed for mobile services is used by GoI agencies or incumbent operators. TRAI is working towards redeployment & vacating few spectrum slots to cater future demands.
Spectrum woes are real and till we better understand the scarcity of it, we hope present consultation paper will try to address at least few concerns raised. The fundamental change is vital- Spectrum isn’t commodity to auction and fill up reserve only, but a scare natural resource, whose management will ensure the better services as per the future needs.