There still is no global consensus about the “best”  TV white spaces licensing method. In some cases the model is license exempt (like Wi-Fi). In other cases a hybrid approach will be used. In India, some are lobbying for a licensed approach.

The Cellular Operators Association of India reportedly will ask the Department of Telecommunications and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to auction TV white spaces spectrum, instead of allowing license-exempt deployment.

Notably, the method of commercialization will affect and shape business models. If TV white spaces spectrum is released on a license-exempt basis, any number of new providers, with lower-cost business models, would be able to consider entering the Internet access market, especially in the hard-to-reach rural areas.

If, on the other hand, the spectrum is auctioned, the cost to would-be ISPs will be higher, as the cost of spectrum has to be built into the business model.

India’s Supreme Court has ruled that all spectrum used for commercial purposes should be allocated through auctions.

Much would hinge on the method of licensing, and almost as much on the prices such spectrum might cost, at auction.

Microsoft, it is safe to say, would prefer a license-exempt release. Google likewise would agree with that approach. Talking about enabling TV white spaces, Microsoft has said “policy-makers need to move away from predominantly promoting exclusive-use licensing and instead enable a variety of exclusive-use and non-exclusive spectrum access approaches across a variety of spectrum bands.”

“To maximize efficiency, regulators should promote dynamic spectrum access techniques in spectrum made available on a non-exclusive basis,” Microsoft says.

That approach will make sense everywhere on licensed and license-exempt bands, Microsoft has argued. “Although the first globally-harmonized opportunity to showcase DSA is occurring through license-exempt (unlicensed) access to the TV band White Spaces, DSA technologies and techniques can and will be used in a variety of regulatory settings, including licensed, lightly-licensed, and license-exempt access, and across a variety of spectrum bands, from sub-1 GHz all the way to the 5 GHz bands and above.”

Mobile operators typically prefer the licensing method, so the expected COAI move is not surprising, though in other markets, the license-exempt mode has not proven controversial.

But the Indian market is unusually competitive, routinely functioning with aggregate numbers of contestants that are on the high side, and spectrum allocations  that are on the low side, compared to other large markets.