Instead of allocating spectrum, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) decided to sell it to provide satellite broadband services. The Department of Telecom (DoT) has requested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to make recommendations on suitable frequency bands, band plans, block sizes, reserve prices, spectrum quantum to be auctioned, as well as associated conditions for spectrum auctions for space-centered communication services.
The TRAI Agency has also requested more information from DoT via communications between the month of September to the month of November 2021 on the frequency bands of satellite spectrum as well as quantum of spectrum obtainable in each band that must be auctioned for the satcom services.
The contentious decision
The debate over whether satellite spectrum should indeed be allocated or auctioned has raged on between telecom operators and satellite operators. Telecom companies want satellite spectrum auctioned since they will need to purchase spectrum for the terrestrial mobile services via an auction as well. Because satellite operators would be vying for the same market, telecom players argue that the laws of the game will be comparable for all.
Experts who support satellite spectrum auctioning argue that because satellite firms are entering to offer similar services to terrestrial operators, they must go through the same spectrum acquisition procedure to ensure a level playing field.
Compare with the international standard
At the moment, satellite spectrum is not available for auction but instead assigned by paying a license as far as global standard is concerned. Sunil Bharti Mittal, the founder and chairman of Airtel Bharti as well as a backer of the OneWeb firm, which is a satellite internet provider, argued earlier this year that there is no basis for auctioning satellite spectrum since use cases are different than terrestrial spectrum. Others disagree, claiming that satellite operators, particularly those in low earth orbit, are now experimenting with satellite communications to provide services akin to mobile broadband.
The auction of satellite spectrum, on the other hand, will not take place for some time. “Information in respect of space-centered services sought by TRAI (through their November 23 letter) …will take some time,” the DoT wrote in a letter which was dated November 27, 2021. As a result, in order to avoid a delay in the deployment of 5G, the TRAI may proceed with consultations/recommendations on problems other than space-based communication services …. On receipt of information from the Department of Telecommunication, issues connected to space-centered communication services may be addressed independently.”