The Indian Telecom Regulator’s Spectrum sharing guidelines, if accepted by the DoT, is positive for the incumbent operators. If used effectively, spectrum sharing can serve as a cost-efficient mechanism to enhance mobile network capacity and quality. For example, 5 MHz of paired spectrum (in GSM) can be used to carry 33 Erlang of traffic, while 10 MHz can carry 139 Erlang (numbers, as per TRAI). Low size of spectrum blocks (only 5 MHz each) in the 2100 MHz band has been one of the issues highlighted by several operators. Now, operators who hold 3G spectrum in a circle can pool their spectrum to improve data throughput and improve quality.
Key Recommendations of the TRAI are as Follows,
- Spectrum sharing between two operators has been defined as pooling of spectrum held by the two operators for simultaneous use. The main aim of sharing is to gain greater capacity through better spectral efficiency, and consequently cost savings.
- Spectrum sharing will be circle-wise and band-wise, i.e. two operators both holding spectrum in a specific band in a given circle will be allowed to pool their spectrum for common use.
- Leasing of spectrum is not permitted. Not allowing leasing is critical to preventing pre-auction collusion.
- If a licensee holds administratively assigned spectrum, even after sharing they can offer only those services, which are permitted to be provided using the administratively assigned spectrum.
- For spectrum acquired through an auction (2010 or after) or where market price has been paid, after sharing the operator can provide services that their spectrum holding independently would have allowed
- Spectrum Usage Charges of both licensees will rise by 0.5% of AGR after sharing of spectrum.
With the new guidelines, there is possibility of joint capacity or network quality planning that incumbents would explore to lower their total cost of running 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks, and improve network quality and increase the gap versus challengers on this count, further.