Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speculating on Indian 3G spectrum specter

The ongoing saga regarding spectrum for 3G services, use of dual technologies, etc., reminds me of 2002, the MII, TD-SCDMA and 155MHz! Read on...

Anything on the spectrum spectacle in India makes very interesting reading! It’s as though two sides fighting over a valuable possession. Worth a click!!

We have been following how the two GSM and CDMA lobbies -– COAI and AUSPI -– have been in the news over the use of mixed bands. GSM operators have constantly warned that any move to allocate spectrum in the 1900MHz band to CDMA players would adversely impact their services in the 2100MHz band. We've been following what the TRAI, the DoT and others have to say on all of this.

Then AUSPI informed this week that field trials conducted in Hyderabad last week had proved successful. The trial conducted by AUSPI on behalf of the Department of Telecom (DoT) claims that the co-existence of 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz is possible.

Now, we are told that defence would be vacating spectrum by end of this year and India would have 3G services by next year. Hope all disputes are settled amicably and India finally gets to see what 3G services would have to offer.

I am reminded of two things – one, the 3G license auctions in Europe, which nearly brought the wireless house down in the early 2000s, and two, an interesting development in China. I’ll dwell on the second one.

Nearly seven years ago, I happened to break the news on TD-SCDMA (Time Division-Synchronous Code-Division Multiple Access), a 3G technology being developed at that point of time by Datang Telecom and Siemens. That story link no longer exists, so I'm providing a link to another story, mentioned below.

About two and a half years later, around October 2002, the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) in China allocated a total frequency of 155MHz for TD-SCDMA! This, for an untested, untried 3G technology, in a country much larger than India, was and is still unheard of!

Makes me wonder, why did the MII give away so much of spectrum so long back to an untested 3G technology, when in India, we keep hearing reports about spectrum issues, use of dual technologies, etc. Are there lessons to be learnt from the Chinese example?

On TD-SCDMA, much later, in 2002, I also discovered not many had even heard of it in India. However, around the time I reported this 155MHz spectrum story, STING’s Robin Grewal contacted me in Delhi to find out more about this 3G technology! That was the level of interest in 3G and TD-SCDMA, and spectrum in India, at least, at that time. Things have changed since! Hopefully!!

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