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Despite Opposition Dot 700 Mhz For Wireless Broadband

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Despite opposition from the Department of Space and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Department of Telecom has identified the S-band and the 700 Mhz frequency, along with a bunch of other new spectrum bands, for wireless broadband services.

The I&B Ministry and the Department of Space want to use 700 Mhz and the S-band for Mobile TV and satellite services, respectively.

According to the draft National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) for 2011, prepared by the Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) wing of the DoT, at least 10 new frequency bands have been identified for broadband services. While NFAP is the Government's future roadmap for spectrum usage, the WPC is the custodian of airwaves and decides on who gets to use which part of the various frequency bands.

Though the draft NFAP recognises the space agency's need for bandwidth on S-band for various services, such as cyclone warning dissemination system, meteorological data dissemination and Broadcasting Satellite Service applications, it wants the frequency to be shared with broadband operators.

“Requirements of IMT applications (3G) including Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) may be considered for coordination on a case-by-case basis in this band,” the NFAP states. This is the same spectrum band that Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia was planning to offer broadband services through a controversial deal with ISRO.

The deal was annulled after the Government took a view that the S-band would not be allocated for commercial use.

Similarly, in the case of 700 Mhz band, the I&B Ministry wants to auction it for Mobile TV services but the WPC has earmarked all of it for telecom services. The NFAP 2011 has relegated Mobile TV to below 698 Mhz band. Other frequency bands identified by the WPC for telecom services include the 450 Mhz, 2.3 Ghz and 3.4 Ghz band.

Spectrum crunch

The new frequency bands will provide a reprieve to telecom companies as they have been facing a crunch in spectrum over the past few years. The operators will need more spectrum in the near future as data usage starts picking up. The Government has set a target of 100 million broadband subscribers by 2014. According to the TRAI, there will be a need for 6000 Gbps (compared with 750 Gbps in 2010) of bandwidth in the next three years to support all that demand. While some of this demand will be met by optical fibre cable, wireless broadband is expected to be the key driver. Hence, availability of spectrum is crucial.

However, non-telecom users such as the defence, space agencies and broadcasters also need spectrum and there is an overlap in the frequency bands used by them and the telecom operators.

The Department of Space has most of the S-band for satellite services and does not want to part with any part of it.

The NFAP will be finalised by the WPC over the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see if any of these agencies will be able to hold on to their turf or not.

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