Telecom sector seeks more clarity on spectrum road map at COAI webinar

Telecom operators across the country have played a critical role in supporting India’s economy during a very trying time
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the GSMA organised a Webinar on June 20, to deliberate on important issues such as spectrum availability, spectrum auction and the importance of spectrum pricing. The roles that spectrum slicing, trading and availability of free spectrum play to manage the networks during emergencies were also discussed.

The webinar, which was aimed at helping the country tackle critical issues surrounding Spectrum, also discussed how a well-designed spectrum policy could drive investment during the time of economic recovery and benefit consumers in a special panel discussion. 

The panel was comprised of senior officials from TRAI, GSMA, COAI, WPC and GSA. Panellists reiterated the need for outlining a clear roadmap and allocating 5G licences in 2021 target time frame.

The webinar highlighted the role telecom and digital technologies have played in shaping the economic activities. There was consensus that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of optimum spectrum use, helping connect India’s citizens. Also, as the global discussion is in full swing on how to realise 5G’s full potential, policymakers must renew their approach to manage the economy and steer technology advancement accordingly.

A press release issued jointly bu COAI and GSMA said the need to resolve the conundrum surrounding Spectrum, as a‘Public resource, and National resource,’ is currently being debated, across the world, and has become more critical. This is because economic growth is increasingly dependent on a connected ecosystem, and for that Spectrum is essential.

Telecom operators across the country have played a critical role in supporting India’s economy during a very trying time. The release stated that in order to help the country recover, more action is needed, and a new worldclass approach to spectrum licensing is a crucial step.

Rajan S Mathews, DG, COAI, during his opening remarks mentioned, “Spectrum is the equivalent of cement and iron for us. The current pandemic has effectively put forth the importance of a robust network required to run an economy digitally. Spectrum is the fundamental ingredient of telecom infrastructure and a key essential of a connected society." 

He added that it was now the foremost duty of all stakeholders to understand the critical role of spectrum and frame policies and implement accordingly. 

"In India, we have to seriously look at the issues of availability of required spectrum to run digital networks seamlessly, the pricing, which is one of the highest in the world and also going forward how we can be innovative in using available spectrum and deploying use cases to address the requirements of the nation’s digitally supported economy,” Mathews said.

Manoj Misra, Senior Public Policy Director, GSMA, India, said, “There is greater need today for a transparent and judicious spectrum policy, especially in a country like India. The world has realised the importance of a robust telecom infrastructure and India still needs vast investments in its telecom infrastructure to be ready for the future digital economy." 

He added that with 5G on the horizon, India is at a crucial point where a clear, predictable and economically viable policy will help in sustainable investments to come in and provide a boost to the evolution and development of next level of technology revolution in the country.

During the lockdown, India’s telecom industry with its Infrastructure worked tirelessly to ensure a 99.9 per cent uptime and also managed immediate data surge after the lockdown and during the natural disasters. Spectrum is the imperative to take forward the economy in a world that will be more integrated and connected online.

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