Spectrum Auction: Jio, Vodafone Idea call for Satcom services; Airtel remains tight-lipped

CIOReview India | Monday, 14 June 2021, 06:14 IST

Spectrum Auction: Jio, Vodafone Idea call for Satcom services; Airtel remains tight-lippedIndia’s top three telcos--Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) have a difference of opinion emerged on the issue of spectrum allocation for rolling out satellite communications (Satcom) in the country. While Jio and Vi want the spectrum to be auctioned, Airtel is silent and has not taken any categorical stance on the issue.

A head start in satellite communication services is advantageous for telecom operators in two ways--one, 5G services are dependent on it. Secondly, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also dependent on satellites. It is also pertinent to note that the telecom department in May this year cleared 5G trial applications of the big 3 telcos.

Based on reports, Jio expressed that any spectrum band that can be used for either mobile or other competing services should be assigned “strictly” through auctions, and both terrestrial, as well as satellite operators, should be allowed to participate in that auction, and then they can have the liberty to use the said spectrum for the terrestrial or satellite-based network.

“Further, assignment of even Ka/Ku/C band spectrum for Geo/Meo satellite must be done through auction only,” Jio said in response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) consultation paper on licensing framework for satellite-based connectivity for low bitrate applications.

Correspondingly, Vi in its submission said to ensure the optimum utilization of a natural resource such as spectrum, it needs to be auctioned first before allocation for satellite-based services. “Any other administrative allocations would cause a huge loss to the national exchequer,” it said.

Presently, Bharti backed-OneWeb, as well as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon, and now US’ Viasat are firming up their plans to launch Satcom services in India. OneWeb has previously said it aims to launch satellite broadband services in India by mid 2022.

Though, Broadband India Forum, an industry association of tech majors like Google, Hughes, Apple, etc. has opposed Jio and Vi’s stance.

TV Ramachandran, Broadband India Forum (BIF) president, stated  “Auctioning of satellite spectrum would, by the same logic, entail the taking back of all backhaul microwave spectrum and all Wifi spectrum, and auctioning them, which would patently disrupt all connectivity and the economy,”.

Ramachandran further said since the spectrum for Satcom is not exclusive to any operator, as is the case with the terrestrial spectrum, auctioning “makes no sense”.