India announces 3G spectrum, MNP guidelines

August 1, 2008

Finally, the wait’s over! The Indian government today announced the guidelines for 3G (third-generation mobile communications) spectrum as well as mobile number portability (MNP).

First, all players — Indian and global — have been invited to bid for 3G spectrum, making it a truly level-playing field. The condition for a foreign player or telecom operator is that it should have some experience in running 3G telecom services.

Those interested to know more about the guidelines for auction and allottment of spectrum for 3G telecom services, can download the documents from DoT’s site.

Apparently, the 3G guidelines allow 10 players in the Indian 3G space, including both Indian and foreign players.

Spectrum in the 2.1GHz band would be available for the 3G telecom services through bidding/auction. Spectrum shall be auctioned in blocks of 2x5MHz in the 2.1GHz band. As per the DoT guidelines, the number of blocks to be auctioned may vary from five to 10, subject to the availability in different telecom service areas. Should there be non-availability, the number of blocks may be less than five in a telecom service area.

The MNP allows mobile phone users/subscribers to change their operators, while retaining their mobile phone numbers.

As per the DoT guidelines, a customer can approach a ‘recipient operator’ to port his or her number. The ‘donor operator’ cannot re-use that customer’s ported number till such time the ported number is in use. The donor operator can only have the ported number once it has been surrendered by the ported customer.

Well, both of these announcements are going to add to India’s brilliant telecom success story.

As for the foreign players coming into the country, quite a few are already present. It would be great to see the likes of NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, China Telecom, China Mobile, Telefonica, etc., enter the 3G space in India. As for 3G technology itself, TD-SCDMA, HSPA, etc., should be considered as well.

Oh yes, there’s some good news for those itching to use the Apple iPhone 3G. Once, the 3G networks are in place, there’s nothing that can stop this from happening.

On the MNP front, a good majority of Indian subscribers are on prepaid. So, there may be quite a few changeovers happening! It could well prove to be a nightmare for the operators, but then, that’s the fun of having a level-playing field and the challenge of playing in the booming Indian telecom market.

Postscrpt: A reader, Abhshek, left a very interesting and relevant comment regarding 3G services that users could be charged heftily. I quite agree with him! The 3G operators would need to price their services right. It should be win-win for both operators and users.

To start off, service charges could possibly be on the higher side, as the 3G licenses won’t come cheap, and operators would also look at the revenue angle. However, over time, service charges are quite likely to come down, if the pattern of the Indian telecom history is repeated. Many thanks for your comment, Abhishek.

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