The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a lobbying association comprising largely of India’s GSM operators, has asked the DoT to limit allocation of spectrum in the 470-698MHz band (white spaces) to licensed players only. It pointed out that “creating an entry for any specific player” through the use of delicensed white spaces will create distortion in the market and could also cause a “considerable amount of loss to the exchequer”. In July last year, Microsoft India got approval by the IT ministry to conduct research on utilizing white spaces for providing internet connectivity in rural reaches. By November 2015, Microsoft’s pilot was successfully being tested in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh and it planned to extend the pilot in Varanasi as well. However, IT minsiter, Ravi Shankar Prasad, told ET that spectrum “will only be provided through auction and that no exceptions will be made”, even when Microsoft said that its not looking to become an ISP, but rather provide “cheap internet connectivity to remote areas”. In a similar case, Google also got an in-princple approval from the Indian government in December 2015 for running a pilot version of Project Loon that uses white spaces to beam internet through weather balloons. However, telecom minister RS Prasad had expressed concern that Google’s Project Loon will interfere with existing telecom spectrum. In March, Google was reportedly in talks with Indian telcos including BSNL to help launch Project Loon in India. 'Unlicensed allocation of white spaces could distort market' COAI has argued that any…
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