Tenth Spectrum Auction for Radiowaves: Enhancing 5G Services in India


12:28 PM

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Tenth Spectrum Auction for Radiowaves: Enhancing 5G Services in India Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What are Airwaves/Spectrum? 
  • What are the types of spectrum band?
  • What spectrum do telecom companies require?
  • Spectrum Allocation – only through auction
  • Tenth spectrum auction for radiowaves

Why in News?

An auction for spectrum worth ₹96,238 crore started on June 25, 2024. Companies like Airtel and Reliance Jio are expected to bid for airwaves to enhance their 5G services.

This is the 10th spectrum auction since the process for sale of radiowaves started through an online bidding process in 2010. The last spectrum auction was held in August 2022, which, for the first time, included radio waves for 5G services.

What are Airwaves/Spectrum? 

  • Airwaves are radio frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum that can carry information wirelessly for a range of services including telecommunications. 
  • The government manages and allocates airwaves to companies or sectors for their use.
  • The government auctions a fixed amount of spectrum within specified band/s to be utilised by operators for providing communication services to consumers.

What are the types of spectrum band?

  • Spectrum can be divided into bands ranging from low frequency to high frequency, which determines their usage and is useful in allocation.
  • Low band spectrum 
    • Less than 1 GHz (600 MHz,700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz)
    • Offers blanket coverage suitable to serve thousands of customers over long distances with fewer towers. 
    • Ideal for wide and in-building coverage.
    • When bundled with high-spectrum bands, it can be used for commercial mobile and broadcasting services.
  • The mid-band spectrum
    • Ranges from 1 GHz to 6 GHz (1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2300 MHz).
    • Provides coverage as well as the capacity to carry more data while traveling significant distances.
  • The high band spectrum 
    • Ranges from 24 GHz to 40 GHz and are also known as the millimetre wave spectrum.
    • Ideal for speedy networks over short ranges. 
    • However, this range is subject to interference from dense objects.

What spectrum do telecom companies require?

  • According to the GSM Association, for telecom purposes, spectrum in the 400 MHz to 4 GHz range is the most optimum.
  • Operators can provide 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G services using one frequency band if they have enough spectrum.
  • For mobile technology in India:
    • 2G services use the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands, 
    • 3G uses 900 MHz and 2100 MHz, 
    • 4G uses 850 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2300 MHz, and 2500 MHz, and 
    • 5G uses 3.5MHz and 700 MHz bands.
  • The 900 MHz band as a superior commercial ecosystem with better-developed technology standards.
    • It is also suitable for offering GSM-based voice calls as well as 4G broadband services. 
  • After 900 MHz, the band suitable for GSM is 1800 MHz, which is also the core band used globally for LTE (long-term evolution), a 4G mobile communications standard.
  • 5G spectrum bands can be clubbed into low, mid and high spectrum buckets.

Spectrum Allocation – only through auction

  • Spectrum considered to be a scarce natural resource was ordered by the top Court to be allocated through the fair and impartial process of auction. 
  • Case originated in 2008
    • The alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam is said to have originated in 2008 when the then government sold 122 2G licences on a first-come-first-serve (FCFS) basis to specific telecom operators. 
    • In its charge sheet filed in April 2011, the CBI alleged that there was a loss of ₹ 30,984 crore to the exchequer as a result of discrepancies in the allocation process.
  • Matter reaches SC
    • Petitions were filed in the top Court alleging a ₹70,000 crore scam in the grant of telecom licenses in 2008. 
    • In February 2012, a division Bench of the SC cancelled the licenses while cautioning that an FCFS basis for the allocation of scarce natural resources can be prone to misuse.
  • Competitive auctions for allocating natural resources
    • In its judgement, the apex court advocated for competitive auctions as the only route to allocate spectrum.
    • It further emphasised that the burden lies on the state to ensure that the non-discriminatory method of auction is adopted by giving wide publicity so that all eligible persons can participate in the process.
  • 2012 presidential reference on 2G verdict
    • In 2012, the then President Pratibha Patil sought the Supreme Court's opinion on several questions arising from the 2012 SC judgment regarding the allocation of 2G spectrum licenses.
      • Under Article 143 of the Constitution of India, the President is empowered to refer to the Supreme Court any matter of law or fact.
    • The Supreme Court emphasized that the decision to use auctions or other methods should be based on a case-by-case assessment of the resource in question, considering public interest and policy objectives .
  • Centre sought a clarification of the 2G spectrum scam verdict
    • In April 2024, the Union government has moved an application for a certain class of spectrum to be allocated through administrative processes instead of competitive auctions.
      • An administrative allocation would mean that the government will have the final say in deciding the procedure for selecting operators.
    • However, the apex Court of India refused to entertain the Centre's plea to allow the administrative allocation of spectrum.

Tenth spectrum auction for radiowaves

  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has initiated the spectrum Auction.
  • The Ministry of Communications announced that the following spectrum bands will go up for bidding in the upcoming auction - 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz. 
    • The 3300 Mhz band and 26 Mhz band are seen as suitable bands for 5G services.
  • Total quantum of spectrum being auctioned is 10,522.35 MHz in various bands valuing ₹96,238.45 crores at reserve prices.

Q.1. What is 5G?

5G, or the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology, is designed to connect people, machines, objects, and devices. It's faster and more reliable than 4G networks, with higher upload and download speeds, more consistent connections, and improved capacity.

Q.2. What is spectrum band?

A spectrum band is a region of a spectrum with a specific range of frequencies or wavelengths. Spectrum bands are often used to refer to regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, but can also refer to other types of signals, such as noise spectra.

Source: Tenth spectrum auction for radiowaves worth ₹96,238 cr begins | The Hindu | Indian Express