The battle for India's air waves

The battle for India's air waves

Nicole McCormick  |   June 21, 2010
Telecom Asia

India might be the world's hottest mobile market, but it also suffers from limited supply of the most critical resource - spectrum.

Indian operators are managing one of the world's greatest ever rampups in mobile demand with typically less than half the spectrum normally available.

Last month's much-delayed 3G auction finally gave them a chance to grab more precious radio real estate.

But midway through the auction the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) dropped its bombshell: under its 2G spectrum blueprint it expects cellcos to pay for frequencies they already owned.

The issue - involving billions of dollars of investment and some of the country's biggest enterprises - is almost certain to end up in court, or before the cabinet, or both.

For more than a year, the industry had been waiting on TRAI's 2G licensing roadmap. When it was finally unveiled on May 11, they learnt the regulator planned to slug them for allocations of more than 6.2 MHz that they had previously been given for free.

Officially, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has limited GSM spectrum in a single service area or "circle" to a maximum of 6.2 MHz.  To begin with, an operator gets 4.4 MHz of spectrum for free in a circle with an operating license.  When the operator reaches certain subscriber targets in a given circle, it can apply to increase its allocation to 6.2 MHz.

But on an ad hoc basis, between 2003 and 2006 the DoT allocated up to 12.4 MHz - twice the license quota - to GSM900 incumbents, including Bharti Airtel, BSNL/MTNL, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Aircel.

Even 8-10 MHz of spectrum (only MTNL has 12.4 MHz of spectrum in both Mumbai and Delhi) is substantially lower than global norms of 15-20 MHz per operator for 2G.

Tell Us What You Think

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <a> <p> <span> <div> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <img> <img /> <map> <area> <hr> <br> <br /> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <table> <tr> <td> <em> <b> <u> <i> <strong> <font> <del> <ins> <sub> <sup> <quote> <blockquote> <pre> <address> <code> <cite> <embed> <object> <strike> <caption>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Use <!--pagebreak--> to create page breaks.

More information about formatting options

Video from Telecom Channel

Boom time for mobile satellite
Starling announces satellite antennas that are compact enough to go anywhere and work, on the move, in any environment.    


Nicole McCormick
KCC steps up to plate
Nicole McCormick
Deployments have doubled in last nine months
David Kennedy/Ovum
A heads of agreement, not a final deal
Lisa Mitnick, Accenture
Operators are positioned to take the lead in embedded mobile systems by leveraging their strong brands and sales and marketing capabilities
John C. Tanner
It's not clear how consumers benefit from industry-preferred model of exclusive TV content contracts
Robert Clark
Try a checklist if your company has walls that need breaking down or information to be shared


Douglas MacMillan and Joseph Galante
After years of losing ground to Amazon in traditional online retailing
Joanne Steinberg, Bridgewater Systems
Reevaluation of 4G strategies

MWC2010 List

HTC guns for top 3 smartphone makers
Powermat wants to charge your desktop
Femtos outlook improves as cellcos seek offload options
Cheaper smartphones key to broadband takeup

Frontpage Content by Category

Industry experts put their heads together and stick their necks out to call the big trends for 2010


Staff writer
Turning your mobile device into its own mouse
Staff writer
Lim Chuan Poh will vacate his position by year-end