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Spectrum shock for GSM
Govt norms tougher than Trai

New Delhi, Oct. 31: The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) today proposed tough subscriber norms for extra spectrum to GSM operators.

In Calcutta, for example, an operator wanting 6.2MHz spectrum will need to have 6 lakh subscribers. Initially, when a telecom firm gets a licence, it is given 4.4MHz of spectrum free.

Similarly, the new rules recommend that for 8MHz, the telecom player in Calcutta must have 20 lakh subscribers; for 10MHz, 36 lakh subscribers; for 12.4MHz, 50 lakh; and for 15MHz, 65 lakh.

This is substantially higher than what the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had prescribed.

However, for rural and remote regions, the norms have been eased.

The regions include Haryana, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The TEC is the technical arm of the department of telecom (DoT). Its brief was to evaluate the recommendations on extra spectrum by Trai.

Sudipto Basu, a telecom analyst, said, “TEC’s recommendations prove that the government is serious about increasing mobile penetration in Tier II and Tier III cities.”

GSM operators are livid at the TEC proposals. The Cellular Operators Association of India, the lobby of GSM companies, today said the “exercise appears to be aimed at destroying the performing sector”.

“The excessive hike in subscriber numbers was being done with a single point agenda to choke and deprive the existing GSM operators of spectrum and to facilitate a priority entry of select players into GSM,” the COAI said.

It also accused the TEC, the technical wing of the department of telecom, of being completely non-transparent.

COAI director general T.V. Ramachandran said the general feeling in the industry was that “it (GSM operators) was being punished for going to TDSAT (the telecom tribunal) on this issue”.

Last week, the GSM operators had moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement Tribunal (TDSAT) challenging the government’s move to offer GSM licences to CDMA operators.

Spectrum norms of the TEC relates only to GSM operators. CDMA operators did not provide adequate data for calculations.

The TEC, which submitted the report today, has also recommended the adaptation of innovative technology by companies for efficient use of spectrum.

These include in-building signal boosters or Wi-Fi equipment inside basements.

Telecom operators say the newer technology will not solve the problem of spectrum crunch.

Rajat Mukarji, spokesperson for Idea Cellular, said, “We are already using signal boosters to provide better clarity of voice and less call drops inside buildings, however, Wi-Fi can be used only if all handsets are compatible to this technology.”

The report has also suggested a higher number of base transceiver stations or towers in a geographical area, especially in central business districts of cities that have heavy call traffic.

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