Industry groups representing wireline broadband providers have asked for telecom spectrum on the e-band and v-band to be allocated on a first-come first-serve basis, as opposed to being auctioned. PTI first reported these representations. Internet service providers and telecom operators are at odds over this issue; e- and v-band spectrum are airwaves that can be used for very short distances, which ISPs would prefer be sold inexpensively so that they can save money on deploying broadband. The representations have been filed by the Broadband India Forum and the Internet Service Providers Association of India.

Telecom operators, on the other hand, prefer that this spectrum be auctioned — which is not surprising, because it’s unlikely that ISPs would outbid them. Even though these bands are only good for short distances, telcos want the spectrum as much as ISPs do. That’s because 5G technology relies heavily on radios with smaller ranges that support higher speeds, something where these bands could come in handy. In 2015, TRAI had recommended that such bands of spectrum shouldn’t be purchased wholesale by telcos as is the norm for spectrum used for wireless telecom.

Instead, TRAI said, they can be purchased on a “per-link” basis for a fixed fee, essentially allowing operators to only buy access rights at affordable prices in places they need. Telcos do not like this idea because the geographies they work at mean that they would have to pay astronomical fees on this spectrum.

E- and v-band spectrum is largely unlicensed in many countries, but is regulated in India; operators tend to use it for so-called backhaul traffic, which consumer devices wouldn’t interact with. The Department of Telecommunications has dragged its feet on TRAI’s recommendations from five years ago, and a committee to probe the issue was reportedly divided in its outcome, with one member preferring auctions, and the others supporting TRAI’s recommendations.

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