India approves spectrum sharing

The Indian government has approved spectrum sharing among mobile operators but held back on a decision about the trading of spectrum.

The country’s cabinet stopped short of a decision on spectrum trading following complaints from operators that a proposed 13% tax on the proceeds of spectrum trades would amount to double taxation. 

The approval of spectrum sharing will enable operators to share similar spectrum in a service area. In addition operators can apply for a five-year permit for sharing, which can later be extended by another five years. 

Telecoms operators and industry bodies such as Cellular Operators Associations of India (COAI) have often blamed the lack of spectrum for the poor quality of calls in the country. 

“This will be a game changer for the industry,” said the country’s telecoms minister Ravi Sankar Prasad. “Some operators have a large customer base and less spectrum, whereas it is the opposite for others. Sharing will allow efficient utilisation of bandwidth and help address issues of call drop and call congestion.”

Under the rules, operators will pay a spectrum usage charge of 0.5% on shared airwaves. Each operator will be restricted to 25% of spectrum in a service area and will not be allowed to own over 50% of spectrum in a single band. 

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