The lobby group is falsely claiming that the V-Band spectrum has the potential to be used as Access Spectrum and hence should be auctioned.
As per media reports, it is understood that a section of the industry has embarked on powerful lobbying at the highest levels to try and stop DoT from delicensing spectrum in the V-Band. The decision to delicense these bands is based not only in global best practice, but has also been specifically recommended by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India. BIF strongly condemns such attempts to harm the interests of the consumers and the economy.
BIF firmly believes any move to advocate and call for the auction of V-Band spectrum goes against the very spirit of Digital India, is anti-reforms and obstructionist to the progress and proliferation of broadband in the country. It will snatch away the possible digital gifts to the general public and shut the door on the plethora of opportunities waiting to be unleashed by the unconnected for transforming their lives.
TV Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum said, “We warmly laud the long-standing recommendations of the TRAI and believe that there is absolutely no merit in auctioning of V-Band spectrum. This band is meant for Wi-Fi and very short backhaul only and will go a long way in meeting the data download capacity of the country, which is abysmally low. Any recommendation to auction it is hypocritical, self-seeking and grossly anti-consumer. Such a retrograde move stifles innovation, destroys the business case around both conventional telcos as well as the new age digital players rather than improving incumbent financial viability”.
MISLEADING & HYPOCRITICAL
The lobby group is falsely claiming that the V-Band spectrum has the potential to be used as Access Spectrum and hence should be auctioned. This is factually incorrect and misleading. We wish to emphatically clarify that V-Band has unique technical characteristics of oxygen absorption coupled with low coverage and high frequency which make it ideal for interference management and thus for high gigabit capacity WiFi. V-Band is therefore best used for secondary access (creation of Wi-Fi hotspots) as well as for short haul backhaul networks. V-Band in Wi-Fi would create tremendous data haul traffic for carriage by telcos and ISPs. For backhaul and Wi-Fi spectrum, the issue of auction does not arise at all, since neither have ever been auctioned in India or anywhere else.
SUPREME COURT DID NOT MANDATE ONLY AUCTIONS FOR SPECTRUM
It has further been wrongly stated that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has decreed that spectrum can be assigned only through auction and therefore, V-Band spectrum should be assigned only through auction. This is a deliberate misreading of the judgment of the Hon’ble SC, which on a Presidential Reference in the matter, clearly stated that auction is not the only option to alienate all public resources of the country. The key is to ensure that the release or delicensing of spectrum should have a social or welfare purpose, and should not unfairly benefit certain parties.
ALL LICENSES NON-EXCLUSIVE; LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ARGUMENT IRRELEVANT
In keeping with the spirit to espouse inappropriate and incorrect rhetoric, the lobbyists have invoked the argument that delicensing of these bands will create a non-level playing field. Licenses are granted by the DoT on a non-exclusive basis. As per the Telegraph Act – Section 19B, “The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, confer upon any licensee under section 4, in respect of the extent of his license and subject to any conditions and restrictions which the Central Government may think fit to impose and to the provisions of this Part…”. The Indian Telegraph Act allows complete flexibility for choosing specific types of regulation/licensing, or no licensing at all. The license of the TSPs does not preclude others from taking appropriate licenses for providing other services. The Unified License, the ISP license, DTH License, OSP License and others are all awarded to different kinds of service providers under varying conditions and requirements. Further, the delicensing of V band would not debar existing service providers from offering services in this band. Infact the existing TSPs would be in a better position to offer their services.
We would also like to bring about another instance of obvious doublespeak. On one hand, TSPs have aggressively pursued the argument that high spectrum costs are central to the dire financial straits and huge debt burden in the telecom industry, yet they are now in favor of auctioning this spectrum. This has become a serious case of contradictions.
INTERNATIONAL BEST PRACTICES
The best practices followed around the world in the context of V-Band have been completely ignored. More than 70 administrations around the world including major broadband enabled countries like USA, UK, Korea, Japan and China have delicensed the V-Band. If V-Band is auctioned in India, we will be the only one across the world to have done so
LICENSE-EXEMPT V BAND WILL BENEFIT THE ECONOMY
Another ambiguous statement by the industry body points to the fact that delicensing would lead to a huge loss for the national exchequer (in the form of revenues accruing from license fees, spectrum usage charge as well as value of spectrum). This is exactly contrary to what is expected to happen and TSPs are failing to see their own good in the long run in this case. The increase in the number of Public Hotspots and the resultant explosive growth in access traffic and backhaul traffic (as is evident when we study the V-Band story in other nations) would lead to huge revenue growth for all service providers, besides the government exchequer. Also, due to the resultant competition created in the market, the costs of the broadband usage are likely to come down which will enable greater consumption of data lead to an explosive increase in growth of consumers.
In an April-2018 working paper, the NIPFP stated that “to the extent the use of V-Band and E-Band leads to cheaper, broader and better-quality access to Internet, it could lead to acceleration in GDP growth, and also increase the GDP contribution of the Internet.”
A recent report by Analysis Mason has stated that public Wi-Fi will connect 40 million new users to the internet by 2019. Around 100 million people will spend an additional US$2 to US$3 billion each on handsets and cellular mobile broadband services per year, which will be direct result of experiencing fast broadband on public Wi-Fi. In addition to driving productivity improvements from high speed Wi-Fi for the overall economy, public WiFi can also translate into tangible benefits to GDP, of around US$20 billion between 2017-19 and at least US$10 billion per annum thereafter.
LOBBYISTS WILL STIFLE INNOVATION AND HARM DIGITAL PROGRESS
Auctioning V-Band spectrum is a proposition that will stifle growth and prevent entire next generation access ecosystems from developing. Across the world, communications regulators and industry are working together to lower barriers to enter the wireless network access market. Through a report dated 5th July 2018, OFCOM recognized the importance of new spectrum and new business models that will enable the transition to 5G, and has proposed policies that will for all intents & purposes allow more actors in the market to create networks. The mutual & inclusive benefits of de-licensed spectrum are strangely lost on vested interests that seek only to reinforce their position in the market, and create artificial entry barriers.