Telcos oppose Trai view of delicensing airwaves for M2M

Source: The Economic Times, Sept 07, 2017

KOLKATA: Mobile phone companies appear at odds with the sector regulator’s call to delicense 1 MHz of spectrum from 867-868 MHz frequencies and another six units from the 915-935 MHz range for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication services.

They also see no immediate need to delicense the ‘V band’, comprising airwaves in the 57-64 GHz range, for such services, as advocated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in its recommendations for M2M services made late Tuesday.

Unlike person-to-person communication, M2M technologies involve communication between two devices. It typically enables wired and wireless devices to talk to each other using sensors, and such applications can be deployed in new-age infrastructure projects such as smart cities, smart grids, smart homes, smart heath and smart transportation.

The technology is also a key component of the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) revolution and the government had acknowledged its potential in the National Telecom Policy 2012.

“There is no immediate need to delicense any additional spectrum bands or change current licence conditions for provisioning M2M communication services,” a top phone company executive told ET.

This, he said, is since M2M communications technology deployment is at a nascent stage coupled with the fact that international harmonisation of M2M/IoT bands is still in a “work-in-progress mode”.
“Premature delicensing of spectrum bands for M2M mobile services would prevent Indian telcos from leveraging the advantages of international harmonisation, especially since globally harmonised spectrum bands are best suited for such services,” the executive said.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio did not respond until press time Wednesday to ET’s queries.

In their submissions earlier to the regulator’s discussion paper on promoting M2M services, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular had opposed delicensing additional bands for M2M services.

Bharti Airtel had said: “M2M services should be offered under a telecom licence and over licensed spectrum,” and that offering it over unlicensed spectrum bands would “create a non-level playing field and destabilise the whole spectrum licensing framework”.

Vodafone India had backed the view, saying: “Use of licensed spectrum would ensure quality” of M2M services and IoT applications.

Issuing recommendations on M2M communications on Tuesday, the telecom regulator suggested that the government consider using “licence-exempt spectrum” for a smooth rollout of M2M services. It suggested also that all existing operators be allowed to offer connectivity for M2M services.

Further, Trai recommended to the government that all basic service operators and Internet service providers be allowed to provide M2M connectivity, including on unlicensed bands, within the area of their existing authorisations.

Trai also reportedly suggested that companies opting for an M2M services licence pay a one-time entry fee in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30 lakh, depending on the area they wished to cover.

Rajan Mathews, the director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, the apex telecom industry group, declined to get into specific implications of Trai’s recommendations on promoting M2M services.

“Our membership is still studying Trai’s recommendations for a proper evaluation and details are yet to be finalised,” Mathews said in response to ET’s queries. He said COAI’s “final position” would be decided in three to four weeks.

In its submission to Trai’s discussion paper, COAI had dismissed the need to delicense any additional bands for promoting M2M communication services on the grounds that there was “already sufficient quantum of unlicensed spectrum available that is under-utilised”.



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