Ecosystems always are contentious, since one segment’s revenue is another segment’s cost. High spectrum costs and fees provide one important example. High costs for 3G spectrum nearly caused some Western European mobile operators into bankruptcy. Consolidation in the Indian mobile market already is occurring, largely because of the potential new market structure created by Reliance Jio’s entry into the business, but also by the burgeoning costs of acquiring enough spectrum to compete. 

We see the conflict often when various parties argue about rights to use spectrum; whether spectrum can be shared; whether spectrum should be available license exempt, or not; whether zero rating should be allowed.

We also will see that principle in action as the Indian government auctions a prodigious amount of mobile spectrum–as much as 2300 MHz– later in 2016. Consider that the whole Indian mobile industry presently uses between 200 MHz and 300 MHz of spectrum. So the upcoming auction represents an order of magnitude (10 times) increase in spectrum.  

To put that into perspective, the potential spectrum rights could cost more than double the industry’s gross revenue and more than 20 times the annual free cash flow of the entire mobile industry.

The expected spectrum payments also represent a sum four times higher than the last auction.

Shockingly, projected spectrum payments in this one auction could represent a sum as high as twice as much spending as in all prior mobile spectrum auctions put together.

So there you have a clear example of ecosystem tension because one segment’s revenue is another segment’s cost. The Indian government thinks it could raise a sum representing as much as 25 percent of the government’s total annual revenues.  

Some analysts would note that India already has some of the highest costs in the world, where it comes to spectrum rights.

In the end, all costs, everywhere in the full ecosystem, are paid by other parts of the ecosystem, with all ultimate costs borne by end users and consumers, or parties subsidizing use of ecosystem products (advertisers, for example).