India to auction 700MHz spectrum in 2012

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
28 Feb 2011

Indian authorities have repeatedly pledged they would not lag behind the rest of the world in releasing digital dividend spectrum, as they did in 3G.

The government has set a deadline of the end of 2011 to the 700MHz band to be freed up, allowing for auctions in 2012, which could support LTE and rural broadband.

The spectrum would need to be vacated by public service broadcaster Doordarshan and other government agencies.

Cellcos are interested in the band because it will allow networks to be built for one-third the cost of the 2.3GHz broadband wireless band, which was auctioned last year.

As 700MHz is preferable for areas of sparse population and/or low broadband demand, it will be common in many areas of India for some years to come. The higher band is more suited to high capacity, dense deployments.

The 700MHz auctions will also give mobile operators a chance to supplement their generally meagre spectrum stores.

Only one firm, Reliance Infotel, gained national rights in 2.3GHz, and no cellco has 3G licenses on a national basis, necessitating roaming agreements to achieve full coverage.

Bharti Airtel, the largest private cellco, won 2.3GHz licenses in four operating regions or circles, but has stated openly that its 4G strategy will rest mainly on future allocations in 700MHz and FDD 2.5GHz.

"We will experiment with these four circles and by then fresh broadband spectrum auctions will be held," chairman Sunil Mittal told TheEconomic Times.

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