Thursday, March 9

Spectrum Sharing: Reliance Jio opposes inter band spectrum sharing; Airtel, Vodafone Idea support: What the new tussle in telecom is about

Reliance Jio appears to be once again at loggerheads with its rivals Vodafone and Airtel. The company has opposed inter-band spectrum sharing among telecom service providers, saying that it will be anti-competitive and lead to losses for the national exchequer. While Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have backed such a move, saying that it will enhance spectral efficiency.
The telecom companies made the statement in response to a consultation paper on telecommunication infrastructure sharing, spectrum sharing and spectrum leasing, released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in mid-January this year. In January, TRAI sought public comments on sharing of core components of telecom networks, sharing of spectrum in different bands etc to reduce capital and operational cost of service providers. “This consultation paper has been prepared to discuss and deliberate the issues related to telecommunication infrastructure sharing, spectrum sharing and spectrum leasing,” TRAI said in “Consultation Paper on Telecommunication Infrastructure Sharing, Spectrum Sharing, and Spectrum Leasing”.
What Reliance Jio says
“Inter-band spectrum sharing is anti-competitive and would lead to loss to the exchequer, as well as failure of (the) process of spectrum auction and, therefore, should not be implemented,” Jio said in its comments. “We submit that the inter-band spectrum sharing will in turn reduce the capex and opex digital infrastructure investments by service providers with easy access to spectrum and network without actually investing. This will adversely impact competition in the sector,” Jio added.
What Airtel and Vodafone say
Both Airtel and Vodafone have argued that allowing inter-band spectrum sharing would not only promote spectral efficiency but also help improve quality of service provided to consumers, especially since cellular traffic is on the rise. “Inter-band access spectrum-sharing among access service providers should be permitted, particularly because since 2015 spectrum sharing in India is in existence with the sole objective of enhancing spectral efficiency by combining/pooling the spectrum holding,” Airtel said.
“As the spectrum is purchased on a market price through an open and transparent auction, the spectrum holding TSP should have the right to fully exploit commercial value of the spectrum, including through inter-band sharing,” Vodafone-Idea said as part of its comments on the consultation paper.

What is Inter-band spectrum sharing
Inter-band spectrum sharing is the pooling and sharing of airwaves between two or more operators in multiple bands in a particular market. At present, inter-band spectrum sharing is not allowed. Only intra-band, or the sharing of airwaves between two operators within a specific band, is permitted.
What is the current status
Presently, active infrastructure sharing is limited to antenna, radio access network, base stations, feeder cable and transmission system. Sharing of infrastructure related to Wi-Fi equipment such as Wi-Fi router, Access Point etc too is allowed. The government allows sharing of spectrum within the same frequency band among mobile service providers.
“In case the scope of infrastructure sharing is enhanced to include all the network elements across all licenses/ authorizations, it is expected that it will help in increasing the utilization of network elements, and in bringing down the cost (both capital cost and operating cost) of the network,” TRAI said. It further proposed that all the network elements (including core network elements) may be permitted to be shared among licensees, not only for wireless networks but also for wireline networks.

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