Telcos want harmonisation of 4G spectrum before auction

India’s top four carriers have urged the sector regulator to speed up harmonization of 1800MHz spectrum before the next airwaves sale early next year as it is the most heavily deployed band for 4G LTE services worldwide.
Harmonization involves consolidating airwaves in the 1800MHz band to create contiguous or ‘continuous’ blocks of spectrum that can be used to provide faster 4G LTE services. Airwaves in the 1800MHz band are the most popular globally for 4G-LTE services, although non-contiguous spectrum in this band is not suitable.
Market leader Bharti Airtel, in its submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), said harmonization of airwaves in the 1800MHz band “must be concluded at the earliest” as it will free up a massive 220MHz of additional 4G LTE spectrum.
According to Airtel, the need for 1800MHz spectrum for mobile broadband is enhanced since it is the globally harmonized band for LTE deployments. “Nearly 44% of 4G operators worldwide have commercially launched LTE networks using the 1800MHz band, given the availability of user devices that has led to better adoption of the services by the masses,” said the Sunil Mittal founded carrier in its submissions to the regulator.
Second-largest carrier Vodafone India added that speedy conclusion of the harmonization exercise will ensure a higher valuation of the 1800MHz spectrum that is currently available in fragmented blocks.
Re-arrangements of spectrum in the 1800Mhz band should be carried out in a comprehensive manner as the existing allocations are fragmented an non-contiguous, resulting in sub-optimal use of spectrum, and in turn, inhibiting operators from deploying advanced broadband technologies, said Vodafone in its submission to TRAI.
No. 3 Idea Cellular echoed its rivals’ views, while asking for early harmonization of 1800Mhz airwaves before the next auction. “Even if harmonization takes time, the (additional) spectrum made available through the exercise can be auctioned with a condition that payments would be made on allocation of spectrum at a subsequent date,” Idea said.
The call for harmonization of 1800MHz airwaves comes when the telecom department has been dithering on the exercise for nearly six months. At present, 75MHz of airwaves in 1800MHz band is distributed between mobile carriers (55MHz) and the defense ministry (20MHz) across India, based on a pact inked more than four years ago.