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Spectrum and fee issues to delay mobile TV
New Delhi: Indian customers may have to wait longer to access television customized for mobile phones, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the information and broadcasting ministry yet to resolve differences over frequency allocation for the service and the fee to be charged from service providers.

On Thursday, Trai submitted a report to the ministry clarifying some of the provisions of its recommended mobile TV policy, in which it has put the onus of bandwidth allocation on the government.

The report has also said mobile TV service providers should pay 4% of their gross revenue as annual licence fee to the government, a suggestion contested by some television broadcasters, who pay a 10% fee.

Trai’s initial policy report, filed in April 2009, had suggested that each mobile TV licensee be given 8MHz of spectrum in the 585-806MHz band. But the ministry said the band was already being used by state-run television broadcaster Doordarshan and the defence ministry, and had also been allocated for mobile and broadband services.

The telecom regulator’s clarification report says the government will have to prioritize between terrestrial broadcasting and telecommunication while allocating the band. But it adds that the government should encourage convergence of technologies by allocating the band to mobile TV service providers.

Companies that want to provide mobile TV services will have to apply for a licence through a closed tender system in which the winner will be decided on the basis of a one-time entry fee (OTEF) quoted by the bidders.

Trai had initially suggested that 4% of gross revenue be charged as licence fee, or 10% of OTEF, whichever is higher. It has now proposed that the fee be decided between 4% of gross revenue and 5% of OTEF.

Direct-to-home (DTH) television operators are peeved that Trai has accepted a 4% share as licence fee, as they pay 10% of their gross revenue to the government.

“We have been lobbying for reduction in licence fee for DTH, which is an up and running business,” said an executive at Zee Group, which owns Zee Telefilms Ltd, requesting anonymity. “Our proposal has not been accepted.”

Trai has also recommended that no licensee hold more than 15% of the total frequency allocated nationwide, while reiterating its initial suggestion that there should be only one licensee in an operating area.

An expert with a technology consultancy said spectrum allocation will be a difficult issue to resolve. There is a bandwidth crunch as the frequency bands being talked about are either in use by defence, telecom services as well as Doordarshan, according to him.

“The frequency between 585MHz and 698MHz is usually used for mobile TV services, while above this is used for mobile broadband services,” he said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The expert also said mobile TV hadn’t been a success globally. “There are firms like Mediaflo in the US and other firms in Korea and Japan, but they are not really doing very well.”


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