Mobile services may be hit from Dec

Telecom services in capital may be disrupted partially starting December due to delays by the Department of Telecom in fresh spectrum allocation to leading operators Airtel and Vodafone, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

The spectrum licences of Airtel and Vodafone, which have some 20 million subscribers in the National Capital Region, will expire by November-end. 

“The DoT should immediately call a meeting of both (Airtel, Vodafone) and arrive at a feasible solution so that consumers’ inconvenience can be avoided,” TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar said in the letter to the DoT.

Airtel and Vodafone have bought fresh spectrum through auctions held in February 2014 as their permits were due to expire in November.

The two companies had 8 megahertz (Mhz) spectrum each in the premium 900 Mhz band, but Airtel could win back only 6 Mhz and Vodafone 5 Mhz of spectrum. 

The two companies bought some spectrum in 1,800 Mhz band to make up for spectrum they lost in the 900 Mhz band. Mobile signals transmitted in the 900 Mhz band cover almost double the area compared to signals transmitted in 1,800 Mhz band.

“As reported by these telecom service providers, this whole exercise of changeover of frequencies will need to be carried out in two stages. The changeover will be a huge challenge as all these changes are to be carried out in a live network. Any lapse may result in service interruption,” Khullar said.

He said Idea Cellular, which won 5 Mhz in the 900 Mhz band, has to assign frequencies after Airtel and Vodafone vacate them. 

While the DoT has issued spectrum to Vodafone on October 10 after a delay of eight months, it is yet to assign all frequencies to Airtel. “TRAI is unable to understand the reasons for this inordinate delay in assignment of spectrum despite the clear provision,” Khullar said.

TRAI had earlier recommended that operators be assigned spectrum 18 months before expiry of their licences so that they can make changes in their network without compromising quality of service.

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