VoicenData Bureau
New Update

It is well-known that wireless communication links are expected to exceed the

wireline communication links. In fact, in some countries like Finland, it has

already happened. Spectrum is probably the only resource equally available to

all the countries. However, neither the entire spectrum can be set aside for

telecommunications services nor is it practical.


International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been coordinating radio

frequency allocations for over a century now. Radio Bureau of ITU (ITU-R) works

towards international coordination of radio frequencies, though national

allocations are within the domain of the respective national administrations.

However, the national administrations have to work in-line with the acts of the

World Radio Conferences (WRC), held periodically under the aegis of ITU-R.

The whole world has been divided into three regions by ITU-R for the purpose

of regional coordination policies. India falls in the Region-3. Following NTP

1999, for the first time, National Frequency Allocation Plan 2000 (NFAP) was

released as a public document. Currently, it is undergoing revision and the

revised NFAP will be effective from January 2002.

At this juncture, it is not only necessary that the NFAP be reviewed and

reworked, but also the whole issue of spectrum management be streamlined along

with rationalization of spectrum charges.


Guiding Principles for Spectrum Management

  • Supreme Court on regulation of frequencies

The Supreme Court has held (in Secretary of Information and

Broadcasting Vs Cricket Association Bengal, AIR 1995 S.C. 1236 ) that (emphasis



"…There is no doubt that since the

airwaves/frequencies are public property and are also limited, they have to be

used in the best interest of the society and this can be done either by a

central authority, by establishing its own broadcasting network or regulating

the grant of licenses to other agencies, including the private agencies…"

  • Convergence

Of late, much focus has been on the convergence of carriage

(conduit), with the motive to deliver different types of applications and

content through the same physical path.


This has resulted in the requirement of high-speed last mile

access solutions. Besides, new modulation and coding technologies have been

effectively used to enable optimal utilization in the deployment of wireless

services for mobile, paging and especially, for the Internet.

Though mobile phone is one of the most visible aspect of

wireless communication, we must bear in mind that it is still a small subset of

a wide range of wireless communication service. It is estimated that the number

of RF links in the country for last mile access for the Internet services alone,

will grow beyond 5,000 within the year 2001, and by 2005, the same is expected

to cross 1 million.

Since IP technology is the platform for convergence, adequate

provisions have to be made for frequency allocation for the exponentially

growing needs for IP-based services, in various frequency bands.


The Convergence Communications Bill 2000 which was recently

introduced in the Parliament, covers issues related to spectrum management.

However, we need not wait till this bill turns into a statute. Most of the

reforms can be done without waiting for the passage of this bill and the

implementation thereof.

  • Current procedure of wireless licensing

The applicants are allotted through an Agreement Letter,

particular frequencies with other technical parameters, and the sites are

cleared through an elaborate though dated procedure by the SACFA.


Thereafter, the payment of royalty and license fee is made

before the license for operation of wireless link is granted. Agreement letters

are to be converted into an operating license within a year, and the license is

to be renewed every subsequent year (by payment of royalty and license fee).

Besides the requirement of specific import licenses from WPC

for most of the wireless equipment used by the service providers, there are

separate licenses for possession of wireless equipment and trade therein. It

might be a shock for the younger generation to learn that till the early

eighties, there was an annual license fee for every radio, transistor and TV set

in the country!

  • National spectrum register


WPC does maintain National Frequency Register (NFR),

including details of particular frequency spots, emission, power and other

technical details, and site details, etc. However, it contains details of the

frequencies allocated as per the agreement letters.

Quite naturally, not all agreement letters get converted into

operating licenses and those which do, are not necessarily renewed in the

subsequent years, perpetually. The following are the main reasons:

  • Non-clearance of sites

  • Delay in procurement of equipment

  • Obsolescence of equipment or technology

  • Change in business plan

  • Technological or equipment evolutions

  • Global nature of certain types of services (e.g. roaming)

  • Interference from other links

Hence, it is of utmost importance for us to take stock of the

following types of scenarios:

  • Details of frequency allocations as per currently valid

    operating licenses

  • Details of frequency allocations as per valid agreement


  • The latest NFAP

  • ITU and WRC proceedings

  • Emerging requirements of various users

  • Evolving technologies

As on date, there is no single repository containing details

of the current valid operating licenses and the current valid frequency

allocations. The dynamism in this aspect is very critical and hence, updating of

records would guide the technical assessment before grant of any spectrum.

  • National security

Wireless communication for national security is vital, and

the same may be allocated without any payment of royalty for spectrum usage.

However, the security agencies should cooperate with other users of spectrum, so

that benefits of technological innovations may be provided to the Indian

citizens as well.

  • Obsolete concept of major users

It is well established that radio spectrum is a finite

resource and hence, must be used effectively. Though traditionally, government

departments and public sector units were the major users of spectrum, but since

the last ten years, wireless communication services provided by new service

providers (mostly, private sector ones) have been gaining important


In fact, during the evolution of NFAP-2000 itself, the

concept of major users was done away with. Time has come to recognize the users

or subscribers as the major users.

  • Impact of spectrum charges on frequency allocation

One of the significant and effective way for optimal

utilization of a spectrum is by assigning economic value to the same. This puts

onus on all the users to use spectrum efficiently and effectively, while also

freeing up the spectrum from non-serious users.

In this context, it is imperative that except for security

services, all other users must pay for the spectrum in a non-discriminatory

manner. SACFA members may make suitable provisions for spectrum charges in their

respective budgets or plans.

Spectrum allocation which is on non-interference,

non-protection basis, should attract significantly lower royalty for usage

vis-à-vis those which are protected.

Such a move will also release a lot of spectrum from those

users who are either not using the allocated spectrum or are not even paying for

the same.

  • Rationalization for spectrum charges for

    point-to-multipoint links

In case of cellular and paging services, there is no

incremental royalty for every additional subscriber, and this treatment must be

extended to all the other services as well. The prevailing system of additional

25 percent extra royalty per link makes the deployment of radio links for last

mile access, prohibitively costly.

  • Protection to existing links

While it is appreciated that the existing links with valid

operating licenses must be protected, the same should not qualify for protection

in new allocations even to the SACFA members.

  • Sharing and co-existence

Internet has been evolving as a platform where sharing and

co-existence is of paramount importance not only to the upcoming players but

also to the incumbents. Hence, spectrum must be shared by various users in an

effective manner so that various service providers co-exist, grow and prosper.

  • Simplification of siting clearance procedure

Any potential radio link site has to be applied in a very

elaborate manner and the application copies are to be circulated amongst

nineteen members of SACFA. Thereafter, No Objection Certificate (NOC) is to be

obtained from all of them before clearance is granted. The whole procedure takes

about three months (under the best of the conditions). However, with the recent

spate of new applications by service providers (basic, cellular and Internet)

both belonging to public sector and private sector, would only elongate the

delays by a few more months unless the procedures are overhauled.

Siting applications are examined from three critical aspects,

viz aviation safety, chances of obstruction to existing line-of-sight links with

valid operating licenses, and the extent of electro-magnetic interference to

radio links in proximity.

Though automation of the ‘Spectrum Management’ is part of

the project being funded under the World Bank aid, the existing procedure must

be simplified and automated. Further, if any SACFA member does not give feedback

within thirty days, the respective site should be deemed as cleared, without any


Besides, sites of customer-end antennae should be brought

under the automatic route, subject to reasonable restrictions on power output,

size, height above ground level etc.

  • Global perspective

Quite often, the usage of spectrum has to be coordinated

internationally, e.g. for satellite-based services or applications, GMPCS,

aviation and shipping, and roaming facility for wireless communication devices.

  • Data rate limits

WPC must not place any restrictions on the data rates

achievable through a particular RF link. Rather, it should focus on frequency

allocation only and the associated parameters like emission and channeling plan.

  • Frequency allocation for bluetooth and wireless LAN

For deployment within public premises, there should be no

licensing at all, as long as the external emissions are within the specified

threshold and no towers are erected beyond three meters from the rooftops.

Spectrum management is a challenge for everyone and more so

with the realization that it can cause significant economic impact. Typically,

anybody given a free spectrum would cry and strive for perpetual protection. At

the same time, most of the such users also expect to accommodate their new

requests by other users in various bands.

Such averments run contrary to not only the judgment of the

Supreme Court, but are also against the basic tenets of radio communication

which has been thriving on ‘sharing, co-ordination and co-operation’. Hence,

earnest and concerted efforts must be made by all the stake-holders to make the

whole process transparent, expeditious and effective.

Deepak Maheshwari, Sr manager, corporate affairs, Satyam Infoway