GSM operators prefer to wait for spectrum vacation
New Delhi, Aug 23: The country's GSM mobile operators today said that they would prefer to wait for additional spectrum for offering 3G services which still has to be vacated by the Defence Ministry but stressed that auctioning should be avoided as it would increase cost of this new service.
In a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Chairman Nirpendra Mishra, the GSM operators said since there would be a price attached to spectrum and that as supply was less than demand (25 MHz in 2.1 GHz versus seven operators), a selection process would have to be adopted.
''In this regard we would like to submit that our first preference would be that if necessary, we should wait till adequate spectrum is vacated by Defence Ministry to accommodate all the existing players,'' GSM's Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI) Director General T V Ramachandran said. Currently spectrum is the sole property of the Defence.
COAI said alternatively, if a selection process has to be adopted, '' it is our firm belief that auctions should be avoided at all costs as it could lead to irresponsible bidding thereby increase the cost of service, reduce affordability, limit the market for 3G, etc.'' Mr Ramachandran said that since 3G is the via media to deliver mobile broadband in India, TRAI has correctly noted in its Consultation Paper that 3G can deliver immense economic and social benefits to consumers and if the service is available at an affordable price it would grow at phenomenal rates, leading to productivity enhancement in economic activities and having a multiplier effect on the economy.
'' We strongly endorse this view and would thus like to once again emphasize the importance of affordability of 3G for the masses so that we are able to maximize and realize the full potential that 3G can offer'', COAI letter to TRAI said.
As regards applying a per MHz price for spectrum, it is submitted that the rate of Rs 85-120 crores per MHz charged in the far more economically developed and affluent European countries cannot be simplistically applied to India as this would work out to an exorbitant price of Rs 10,000 crores or more, for all India 5 MHz spectrum. This would make 3G a complete non-starter and complete negate the benefits that 3G can deliver.
On mixed-band plan, of sharing spectrum with rival CDMA operators, the COAI has expressed concern. This move would degrade receiver noise,leading to reduced cell range and adding to costs. The letter said it may be recalled that after taking into account the report submitted by Aegis and also the submissions of COAI/Nokia, the Authority had, in its last recommendations, ''come to the conclusion that it was not desirable to allocate spectrum both in IMT 2000 2 GHz band and 1900 MHz USPCS band in a mixed manner''.
In fact the Authority had specifically noted that there would be interference problems. The Authority had also noted that even in the existing arrangement a lot of coordination and efforts were required to put additional filters in CDMA transmitters so that they did not interfere with GSM receivers and further allocations should not be done so that again the same coordination problem comes, TRAi said.
As regards the fact that getting the solution approved by international standards bodies would mean a delay in the introduction of 3G, it is submitted that it is far better to wait for some time and implement a correct solution, rather than venture into a non-standard solution and imperil the entire sector, the letter to TRAI said.
''It is our understanding that the only grievance /concern that the CDMA operators have against the introduction of 3G in 2.1 GHz band is that dual band (800 MHz/2100 MHz) handsets are not available.'' In this regard, it is first submitted that this position of CDMA is not correct as dual band handsets are being manufactured by multiple reputed international vendors. COAI has brought to the notice of the Authority several companies such as Toshiba, Hitachi, Casio, Sanyo, Kyocera, Sony Ericsson are offering dual band handsets.
It may also be noted that the fact that the handsets are being made for the Korean and Japanese markets (where there is a demand for the products) cannot in any way diminish the international quality and stature of the vendors and their products.