In a bid to improve spectral efficiency and quality of service, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the guidelines on spectrum sharing, arising from the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
“Spectrum sharing would be allowed only for the access service providers in the first instance in a Licensed Service Area (LSA), where both the licensees are having spectrum in the same band,” an official release said.
“Leasing of spectrum will not be permitted. For the purpose of charging Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC), licensees shall be considered as sharing their entire spectrum holding in the particular band in the entire LSA.”
Spectrum sharing allows operators to pool their respective spectrum for usage in a specific geographical area , thus complementing each other’s needs and ensuring more efficient utilisation of the spectrum.
In November, 2012, the then Government approved the principle of sharing the spectrum, but detailed guidelines were not issued, and the policy could not be implemented.
The salient features of the norms for spectrum sharing, among other things:
a) All access spectrums including traded spectrum will be sharable provided that both licensees are having spectrum in the same band.
b) The right to share spectrum shall be subject to fulfilment of relevant license conditions and any other conditions that may be specified by the licensor/Government from time to time.
c) A licensee shall not be eligible to share its spectrum, if it has been established that it is in breach of terms and conditions of the licence, and the licensor has ordered for revocation/termination of its licence.
d) Sharing may be permitted in the following scenarios:
i. where both sharing entities possess spectrum for which market price has been paid with clarification in respect of spectrum in 800 MHz acquired in the auction held in March 2013, sharing of spectrum shall be permitted only if differential of latest auction price and March 2013 auction price on pro-rata basis on the balance period of right to use the spectrum is paid.
ii. where both sharing entities are having administratively allotted spectrum.
iii. where one sharing entity has spectrum acquired through auction or liberalized spectrum and the other has spectrum allotted administratively, sharing shall be permitted only after spectrum charges for liberalising the administratively allocated spectrum are paid.
e) The use of technology shall be governed by the terms and conditions of respective Notice Inviting Application (NIA)/license.
f) Both licensees will be individually and collectively responsible for complying with sharing guidelines, including interference norms.
g) Spectrum sharing will be restricted to sharing by only two licensees subject to the condition that there will be at least two independent networks provided in the same band.
h) Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) rate of each of the licensees post-sharing shall increase by 0.5 percent of Aggregate Gross Revenue (AGR).
i) The prescribed limits for spectrum cap shall be applicable for both licensees individually. Further, spectrum holding of any licensee post-sharing shall be counted after adding 50 percent of the spectrum held by the other licensee in the band being shared, being added as additional spectrum to the original spectrum, held by the licensee in the band.
Guided by the principle of “ease of doing business”, the Cabinet also decided that both licensees sharing the spectrum shall jointly give a prior intimation for sharing the right to use the spectrum at least 45 days before the proposed effective date of the sharing.