Photo of Asim Abbas

Partner in the Technology, Media and Telecom Practice at the Delhi Office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Asim has over 22 years of experience in the Telecommunication sector, including as a policy maker in Department of Telecommunication, Ministry of Communications, Government of India. He was also involved in important policy formulation like the terms and conditions of various license agreement, interconnection agreement etc. and interactions with the Telecom Regulator on important policy matters. Asim has been ranked by Chambers Asia-Pacific, 2017 as a ‘Notable Practitioner’ for Technology, Media & Telecom. He can be reached at asim.abbas@cyrilshroff.com

In the initial years of wireless telephony in India, radio spectrum was administratively allotted to licensees. However, following the recommendations of the National Telecom Policy, 2012, and the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India,[1] the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) de-bundled spectrum allotment from the grant of licenses, and adopted an auction-based price-discovery mechanism for spectrum allotment.

Scarce radio spectrum resources have typically been considered as bottleneck assets, and therefore auctions provide an effective means of price discovery, help maximise revenue for the Government, and ensure optimal allocation of spectrum resources. However, excessive reliance on bid markets risks overlooking potential market failures attributable to enterprises attempting to monopolise bottleneck assets such as spectrum.

Recognising the need to ensure that no one operator should be able to monopolise scarce spectrum resources to the detriment of its competitors and consumers, the DoT, in successive Notice Inviting Applications (NIAs) has prescribed ceilings for the amount of spectrum that can be held by any telecommunications operator in a given band within a Licensed Service Area (LSA), as well as a ceiling on the total amount of spectrum that can be held by an operator across all bands in an LSA. Presently, these stand at 50% of any given spectrum band in an LSA, and 25% of the overall spectrum available in such LSA across all bands. These restrictions have also been incorporated into the Mergers and Acquisitions Guidelines of 2014 (M&A Guidelines) as prescribed by the DoT.

Continue Reading Time to Revisit Spectrum Caps and Market Shares

Most frequent fliers would have been familiar with the requirement to power off personal electronic devices (PEDs) for the duration of domestic flights. It was not until 2014, that Indian fliers were permitted to operate mobile phones and other PEDs on “flight mode” (in non-transmitting mode). The rationale for this restriction, as explained by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), is that radio transmitters in most communications devices may, and have in the past, caused harmful interference with crucial on-board flight systems. Therefore, while several Indian carriers such as Jet Airways already provide on-board Wi-Fi services, such services are limited to the provision of locally stored content to airborne PEDs, and do not enable passengers to connect to the internet cloud.

However, recent technological developments have now made it possible for passengers to use transmitting PEDs while airborne, without causing harmful interference to crucial flight operation systems or terrestrial communication networks. Together these technological solutions are labelled In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) services. Typically, IFC solutions are provided by making use of aeronautical mobile satellite services that use a satellite link to provide IFC to onboard PEDs; or by using Mobile Communications on-board Aircraft (MCA) systems, which while typically operating on terrestrial GSM communications bands, use an air-to-ground satellite link to establish connections with terrestrial networks.

Continue Reading In-Flight Connectivity: “VNO” or NO “VNO”?