NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi-led government is likely to escape the auction route for allocating backhaul spectrum or airwaves in the E and V bands, according to a highly-placed source in the Ministry of Communications.
“The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is expected to go by the recommendations issued by sector watchdog, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and there are no global instances where such (backhaul) spectrum is put on sale, the source said.
In August 2014, Trai had suggested that airwaves in the E and V bands in the most advanced economies is assigned without auction as these radio waves were meant for backhaul and not for carrying access signals to consumers.
The department has also sought views from the country’s attorney general (AG) on whether the backhaul spectrum could be auctioned or allocated administratively.
The E band airwaves fall between 71 and 76 GHz and 81-86 Ghz, and V band, between 57 and 64 GHz which according to service providers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio should not be put on sale.
The backhaul spectrum supports the voice and data quality of 2G, 3G and 4G services, and enhances telecom signal carrying capacity between two towers and also reduces call drops.
In May, Trai chairman RS Sharma said that airwaves for access services could not be auctioned without a surety of backhaul and that cannot be auctioned since it was a prerequisite.
The person quoted above, however, said that the government would not go against the regulator’s views while taking a decision on the backhaul spectrum but also take a legal recourse to back up its stand.
The backhaul spectrum allocation has however put the Narendra Modi-led government in a politically tricky situation as it levelled serious charges against the UPA-II government for allocating 2G spectrum on a first-come-first-serve (FCFS) basis.
The department, according to the source, is likely to ensure all legal precautions before allowing backhaul spectrum to incumbent operators administratively, and may also seek direction from the apex court which quashed 122 licenses in 2012 by terming FCFS policy flawed.