Spectrum refarming is the process of reallocating the spectrum from being available to certain users and giving it to others. As not all bands of spectrum are the same and have different characteristics, this makes the spectrum useful for specific purposes. Low frequency transmissions travel further before they lose their signal strength as they can pass through dense objects without much trouble. This is at the cost of being able to transfer less data. Conversely, higher frequency signals carry much more data but are unable to go through dense objects, such as walls, hills, etc.
Therefore, the refarming of spectrum is essential to give way to better technologies such as using 3G as it is more efficient than GSM. GSM is the Global System for Mobile communications. It is a technology that transmits mobile voice and data services through and open and digital cellular technology. However, GSM is a second generation technology, whereas 3G and 4G are third and fourth generation respectively. These new technologies are better at providing cellular service than the previous generations.
Refarming GSM spectrum is the way forward however it has its challenges.
When the 2G spectrum is being refarmed in order to make it available for other technologies, there are problems. The remaining devices that use 2G will need services at the same time as the 2G technology is being withdrawn. Moreover, new devices will be needed that support 3G or 4G services and there will be a resistance from the users of 2G who cannot afford the change. Device upgrade is not possible in terms of financing as the loss will be greater than the profit; therefore the cost of replacing devices is a factor that comes into refarming the spectrum. On top of that, the service of both 2G and other technologies (3G and 4G) must be maintained without interference. The operators of these services must be on the forefront to tackles these problems when refarming is being done.
The regulators on the other hand will have to reallocate the spectrum in a manner that benefits the market and consumers in an equal fashion, without looking to just make revenue but in order to provide public service at the same time. Furthermore, for the success of refarming of 2G spectrum to happen, there has to be continuous and sustained co-operation and co-ordination between not only the operators within themselves but with the government regulators as well. They need the technology to support the instantaneous operations of various technologies at the same time as refarming happens. That means that 2G, 3G and 4G services are to be provided without interference. These factors need to be considered before refarming can happen, however once it is done, it gives way to a network that allows improved cellular and data services. The government along with the mobile operators must work together to see that existing spectrum is utilized properly for future technology as it is a finite source and not unlimited to us. Therefore, judicious use is required and the refarming of the 2G spectrum is a step forward to better connectivity.
Beyond everything the actual challenge is something else. In India, the companies like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd were affected by 1-lakh crore financial loss as the Telecom Commission took decision for refarming of their spectrum of 900 Mhz frequency band. Therefore, this is obvious that these companies will try to recover this huge amount of money from their customer by imposing different costs. On the other hand, if you look closely, the whole telecommunication business has become a monopoly of these companies. Government officials also are earning huge money from these companies in a wrong way. But we should always be conscious about this fact and think about mobile liberalization. We have to think about free spectrum. The unlicensed spectrum is the only solution by which the monopoly of the corporates can be stopped.