WPC Restrictions on Grant of License

The need for high-speed data circuits grew with the growth of the software industry. As more and more software houses came up, there was an increasing need for providing international private leased line circuits. All such circuits were provided by VSNL until STPI came on the scene. While both these organizations had their own up-linking facilities; it was the last mile connectivity that created the problem. It was at this time that spread spectrum radios made their entry into India to fill the void of non-availability of copper in the last mile.

Soon, industrial houses with multi-location set ups in the city, started using these radios for inter-connecting their offices. The advent of the Internet further, fueled the requirement for such radios.

Though the radios are in the ISM Band (2.43-2.4385 GHz), which is an unlicensed band in many countries; in India however, a license is required. The WPC grants these licenses on request by customers. Sometime in early 1998, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) instructed WPC not to issue licenses for radios operating beyond a speed of 64 Kbps. For higher speeds, a NOC is required from DoT. This was perhaps done to prevent loss of revenue to DoT. It may be noted though, that DoT, now BSNL, provides only 64 Kbps or 2 Mbps circuits. So, the loss of revenue is only notional.

Present Status

There is no change in situation; WPC continues to grant licenses only for 64 Kbps circuits, allowing usage of 5 MHz spectrum. Appreciating the need for higher speed requirements, NFAP 2000 allows usage up to 10 MHz spectrum.

The license issued by WPC for all spread spectrum radios is on the basis of ‘Non Protection and Non Interference’ only. So the restriction imposed is all the more difficult to comprehend.

It has been seen globally that bandwidth requirements are increasing day by day. To restrict customers to use bandwidth only up to 64 Kbps is hampering the growth of IT in India. A verification of records in the DoT will reveal that NOC for grant of license of higher speeds was done in only one case i.e. for Dr Reddy’s Lab.

As a result, customers only apply for 64 Kbps license, though their equipment is capable of providing much higher speeds.

Both STPI and VSNL provide connectivity at speeds varying from 64 to 512 Kbps and above. Both being government enterprises perhaps have been allowed this liberty. Is it fair to restrict private ISPs to only 64 Kbps?

There is no level playing field. And this is contrary to what was promised to the ISPs when they applied for licenses.

Maj. General (Retd.) L Tahiliani, CEO, P-Com (India) Ltd

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