In Business Model, Mobile, Spectrum

Two Indian mobile companies are talking about sharing their spectrum. State-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is in discussions with MTS, the Indian unit of Russian telecom company Sistema, for fourth generation Long Term Evolution  services across the country.

The shared spectrum apparently also will involve co-branding of some sort, assuming regulators approve the sharing.

Spectrum sharing can take a number of forms. In India, it primarily is an immediate issue with respect to mobile operators pooling spectrum in the 2G, 3G and possibly 4G bands.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended allowing mobile operators to share spectrum, including capacity at 2100 MHz, for the purpose of  improving spectral efficiency.

In other words, two or more operators with spectrum in the 800 MHz band, for example,  could agree to pool their respective spectrum holdings to create larger or more-contiguous blocks of spectrum.

Sharing is allowed in 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz bands, so long as all the carriers wishing to share have licenses in the shared bands.

Fragmented spectrum is more inefficient than larger blocks of spectrum. In India’s highly-fragmented mobile market, with more than average number of providers, the problem of spectrum inefficiency arguably is worse than average.

One reason the cable TV high speed access standard, DOCSIS 3.1, supports speeds so much faster than the earlier 3.0 specification is partly attributable to its ability to bond more contiguous blocks of spectrum, for example.

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