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India’s communications revolution under threat from spectrum crunch

20-March-2007
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India’s communications revolution under threat from spectrum crunch

India’s broadcasting and telecommunications industries raised its concern to optimise the regulation of satellite services to provide greater choice for consumers. In an emergency meeting attended by members of the VSAT Association of India (VSAI), Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) and the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), views and information were exchanged with government officials, including representatives of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Planning Commission.

The members voiced their concern that a proposed `spectrum grab’ for current satellite bandwidth in the 3.4GHz-3.7Ghz range used by Indian and international satellite operators could close down satellite services including hundreds of TV channels across India. The meeting brought to fore the issues including the need for expansion of Indian access on a long-term basis to competitively priced international satellite communications services. It looked at a long-term and a considered approach to allocating existing satellite services bandwidth to terrestrial wireless services such as Wimax.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) too attended the meet and was praised for fueling growth in satellite communications that will play a vital role in India future economic development.

According to several speakers during the meeting, satellite services have underpinned India’s communications revolution, but they must be fairly, openly and efficiently allocated to operators on an even handed basis if the Indian people are to enjoy the greatest benefit. A capacity crunch has already developed that sees demand for satellite services vastly outstripping supply of transponders, and the proposed re-allocation of spectrum for WiMax services will turn a crunch into a crisis.

“For instance, the largely unconsidered implications of the proposed changes could be catastrophic for news broadcasters which use the lower end of the C-band spectrum,” said Simon Twiston Davies, the CEO of CASBAA. “This is exactly the radio spectrum now being given over to untried Wimax services, which could easily use other frequencies.”

“Today, India remains woefully under-provisioned in many areas of satellite capacity yet we have the potential to revolutionize the public’s access to new and exciting interactive media and telecommunications,” said D.P. Vaidya, President of the New Delhi-based VSAI.

During the summit, the private sector called upon the Government of India to implement a long-term TRAI recommendation that an `Open Skies’ policy should be adopted for DTH and VSAT operators similar to that available to ISPs. According to TRAI, DTH and VSAT providers `should be allowed to work directly with any international satellite’.

International satellite operators stressed their desire to service India’s growing market on a long-term basis, but Twiston Davies noted that Asian demand for transponders is increasing. “Satellite operators are not likely to continue past practice of making satellite capacity available to India on short-term contracts,” he said. Davies continued, “This is an industry that operates on the basis of long-term commitments. Indian users should be allowed to conclude such contracts directly with outside suppliers. India’s current economic growth cannot be sustained by domestic satellite resources alone.”

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