The Indian government is considering allowing operators to share spectrum to help cope with the shortage of available airwaves.
The New Telecom Policy under development by the Department of Telecom (DoT) could allow spectrum allocations to be shared between two or more service providers, officials told the Economic Times.
The guidelines could follow recommendations from regulator Trai, which suggest allowing spectrum to be shared between two or three operators so long as none of them individually hold more than 4.4-MHz of GSM or 2.5-MHz of CDMA spectrum.
But the ministry has ruled out allowing operators to trade 2G spectrum, on the grounds that the spectrum price was never auctioned off.
Previous 2G spectrum issuances, including the 2008 process which led to a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into allocations, had been bundled with telecom licenses or issued on what was ostensibly a first-come-first-serve basis. Trai has argued that this means the price of 2G spectrum was not determined by the market.
India's crowded mobile market has led to a spectrum scarcity.
New telecom minister Kapil Sibal has already indicated he will aim to promote consolidation, expressing concerns over whether - even in a market as large as India's - 14 mobile operators can survive.