Why TRAI delayed 800 MHz consultation paper release?

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has finally released consultation paper on 800 MHz and has asked all stakeholders to give comments by 15th January, 2014 and counter comments by 22nd January, 2014. The open house discussion for 800 MHz has been fixed on 27th January, 2014.

So, the big question is why has TRAI delayed release of 800 MHz consultation paper despite repeated request from DoT?

First, TRAI delayed release of 800 MHz as it did not want 800 MHz spectrum auction to happen along with 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum auction. The delay would definitely impact future roadmap of CDMA operators like Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and Sistema Shyam and also help in increasing valuation of GSM operators. It seems TRAI has succeeded in its effort as last date of withdrawal of application for the spectrum auction is 27th January and on the same day TRAI has fixed an open house discussion for 800 MHz.

Second, by not recommending or delaying 800 MHz consultation paper despite DoT request, TRAI wanted to have only one lobby in Indian telecom say GSM lobby so that things become easy from a regulatory point of view. With two lobbies things becomes complicated and TRAI wanted to simplify things in its favour by working with only one lobby in the long run.

Third, the delay was intentional on part of TRAI as the regulator wanted to use 800 MHz as E-GSM band so that it can be beneficial to GSM operators. By delaying, TRAI was buying time so that defence can be pressurized to vacate 800 MHz spectrum and then use 800 MHz as E-GSM band. Even in its last recommendation, TRAI has recommended feasibility of 800 MHz for E-GSM band. With defence not vacating the spectrum, the regulator had no other option but to release 800 MHz consultation paper.

Fourth, TRAI was also pressurizing DoT to see to it that 800 MHz is being used as E-GSM band but was not successful in its endeavor as DoT in its 20th December 2013, letter stated that “The decision to auction spectrum in 800 MHz band is policy of the government in terms of the Section 25 of the TRAI Act, 1997 as amended from time to time.”

However, the DoT, through another letter dated 24th December 2013 has clarified that “There is no intention of the government to issue direction under Section 25 of TRAI Act. The recommendations for reserve price for auction of spectrum in 800 MHz band in all service areas has been sought under clause 11 (1) (a) as was mentioned in this ministry’s letter of even No. dated 12th December 2013.”

But finally TRAI has relented and has released 800 MHz consultation paper after a lot of to and fro between TRAI and DoT.


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