COAI seeks urgent allocation of E and V band spectrum via auction to access providers


KOLKATA: Phone companies have sought telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s urgent intervention to thwart any potential delicensing of high-value spectrum in the E and V bands or allocation of these airwaves through the administrative route. Such moves would be legally untenable as they would violate the Constitution, upset the level playing field in the sector, trigger interference in telecom networks and ultimately cause massive revenue losses to the government, they said.

The telcos, instead, urged Prasad to speed up allocation of E and V band airwaves through transparent auction to mobile carriers. These premium airwaves with high commercial value are considered ideal for strong mobile broadband backhaul networks, even as operators upgrade 4G networks with 5G-ready technologies, they said.

In a letter to the telecom minister, dated September 28, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director general Lt Gen (retd.) SP Kochhar said “some interest groups are seeking to delicense/adopt light-touch regulation for the E and V (spectrum) bands for access broadband services…both options are technically not feasible, legally untenable and would cause huge revenue loss to the government”.

ET has seen a copy of the letter, copies of which are marked to finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Prime Minister’s Office principal secretary PK Mishra, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, telecom secretary Anshu Prakash and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.

The COAI represents top telcos Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Kochhar said any potential delicensing of spectrum in the E and V bands, or its allocation administratively, would be “in violation of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution”. He said if airwaves in E and V bands “are allocated on a link-to-link basis or delicensed, as is being requested by some groups, there will be lakhs of short-haul links in a city, leading to interference between various users/licensees.

Such a scenario, he cautioned, would also lead to “lack of desired reliability” for ultra-reliable and low latency communication – a key technical requirement for deploying 5G networks – and would accordingly, make these premium airwaves redundant for 5G services.

Kochhar said that if the E and V bands are unlicensed, there would be wide and indiscriminate adoption of these spectrum bands, which would make it open for many uses beyond telecom, leading to uncontrolled concerns around interference and make these bands useless for telecom services.

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