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Spectrum to Railways: Telecom department to seek regulator’s views

Kiran Rathee

The Department of telecommunications (DoT) will seek views of regulator Trai regarding allocation of 10 MHz spectrum in 700 MHz band to railways for public safety and security services.

The railways want 10 MHz spectrum of this spectrum for their internal communications. However, as this spectrum is worth `65,680 crore and earmarked for mobility services, the DoT wants to get the opinion of the regulator if it should allocate the airwaves free of cost. As per telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, the DoT has never allocated access spectrum to anybody without charging till now and that is why, the view of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is sought.

The Digital Communications Commission, which met on Tuesday to discuss the proposal, decided to seek the views of Trai. As per DoT officials, the Supreme Court ruling of 2012 mandated that natural resources should be allocated only through auctions. FE had earlier reported that DoT and railways were on a collision allocation of 700 MHz spectrum free of cost. This was despite the finance ministry s go-ahead.

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However, experts believe that DoT can allocate the airwaves to railways as they will be using it for their internal communications and not commercial use. It makes perfect sense to give railways the access to this spectrum for enhancing productivity or safety. After all, they are probably India s most inclusive infrastructure. I believe that the Supreme Court judgment essentially bars the government from giving a precious natural resource like spectrum to commercial entities without a transparent process, telecom analyst Mahesh Uppal said.

The telecom industry is though against the allotment of such high-value spectrum to railways for free. Allotting any part of this band only for railways will lead to fragmentation of this band as also create interference issues. We believe that auctions should be the mandated means to acquire access spectrum to be used for commercial purposes, industry body COAI had said.