Telcos allowed to share spectrum; 3G services left out
After a long wait, telecom operators will finally be able to share spectrum in the same circle, a move that will help them overcome the shortage of airwaves but the facility will not be available for 3G.
"Spectrum sharing will be permitted but in case it will be in the same license service area and will be with the prior permission of the licensor. A simple automatic approval process will be put in place for this purpose," Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here.
This would also help smaller operators with fewer subscribers to earn revenues by way of sharing spectrum lying vacant with them.
Sharing of spectrum would not only ease pressure on operators, but also generate additional revenues for the Government by way of increasing subscribers. However, 3G services have been kept out of the ambit of spectrum sharing.
The Department of Telecom had termed roaming agreements between operators for the 3G services, which offer high speed access to data services, as "illegal".
Private operators, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular, have approached the court to appeal against the DoT plea on intra-circle 3G roaming pacts.
Permission for spectrum sharing will be given initially for a period of 5 years, after which the government may renew the permission for another term of 5 years.
Spectrum can be shared only between two spectrum holders in 900/1800 MHz band or in 800 MHz band. Also, the total quantum of spectrum, as a result of the spectrum sharing, should not exceed the 35 per cent limit prescribed in case of mergers of licences.
However, both the parties would have to fulfil individually the roll out as well as quality of service obligations prescribed under the licence, Sibal said. Spectrum usage charges will be levied on both the operators on the total spectrum held together by them.
In other words, if an operator 'X' having 4.4 MHz of spectrum shares 4.4 MHz of spectrum of another operator 'Y', then both 'X' and 'Y' will be liable to pay spectrum usage charges applicable to 8.8 MHz of spectrum.
The government also clarified that spectrum sharing would involve both the service providers utilising the spectrum and leasing of spectrum is not permitted. Decision on matters related to pricing of spectrum, post sharing, would be taken separately, Sibal said.