The Cellular Association of India has recently said that – "compared to international standards, operators in India possess significantly smaller amounts of spectrum". Explain what it means by "smaller amount of spectrum". Also suggest what can be done for optimum allocation and usage of spectrum as a scarce resource. {}

Spectrum refers to the full length of electromagentic wave frequencies, also called radio frequenies. Theoritically the range in infinite. But existing technology puts limits on usability of the range. So, the range of usable frequency is limited. Moreover, different frequencies have their own limitations. For example low frequency have larger reach, whereas higher frequencies do not travel far enough. If we want to send more information, we would need more bandwidth. So, 3G and 4G would require more bandwidth. 
There are many competing uses of spectrum which includes over-the-air broadcasting, defense, public safety, maritime, transport, radio astronomy, commercial services such as voice, data, home networking, tele-medicine, remote control, etc. Different bandwidth are assigned for each use. Through command-and-control, government reserves frequency ranges for defense, public safety, etc. Some frequencies are reserved for satellite communication according to International Telecommunication norms. 
Government then puts on auction frequencies for commercial use by telecommunication companies for voice, 2G, 3G, etc. Scarcity thus arises because of following reasons:

  1. competing uses of spectrum
  2. Government does not auction all the resources at once
  3. When new frequencies are auctioned, devices such as mobile phones should be able to operate on those frequencies. It takes time for adoption of new technology.
  4. Guard bands to avoid interference among different bands
  5. Unused bands for prospective future use

Steps to be taken:

  1. Sharing of spectrum among carriers
  2. Government should auction the remaining unused spectrum
  3. Compartmentalization of spectrum for specific uses limits capability of emerging technologies to use spectrum differently. Government should make some concessions for emerging technologies.
Question for UPSC Mains:
The Cellular Association of India has recently said that - "compared to international standards, operators in India possess significantly smaller amounts of spectrum". Explain what it means by "smaller amount of spectrum". Also suggest what can be done for optimum allocation and usage of spectrum as a scarce resource. {Source}

Published: December 24, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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