4G Pre Consultation : Prophecy and Forecast

The TRAI on the 10th February, 2010 has invited comments on a pre-consultation paper on 4G Spectrum. By the title itself the project seems tentative and unsure. Most news reports reacted negatively to this pre-consultation attempt. The Times of India has termed it, “creating confusion” jibing at the failure of the TRAI to decide issues of “allocation, pricing, methodology, transfer and sale of 2G spectrum”. Others are focused on the delays of the proposed allocation of 3G spectrum.

The counter to these arguments is contained in the letter by the a letter from the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) stating that India is lagging behind in the implementation the next wave of cellular technology. Hence, starting a consultation process for 4G services which are presently deployed in Sweden and Norway cannot be termed as speculative and tentative.

As with most things the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Whereas it is true that several issues remain outstanding with respect to 2G spectrum and the auction of 3G spectrum itself has yet to be conducted, we should not burry our heads in the sand. A pre-consultation paper on 4G Spectrum is certainly a move which is to be supported. By identifying issues which are outstanding with regard to 2G and 3G spectrum as well as whether they can be linked to 4G spectrum, the eventual roll-out of 4G services may be accelerated. By issuing a pre-consultation paper the TRAI is certainly not merely gazing into a crystal ball. It hopes that even though there may not be an absolute level of determinacy, we may get a forecast as to the problems which are to be faced in the future. The weather may change, however it will help if we are packing an umbrella to begin with.