Important Facts

Unlicensed spectrum is a valuable public and social good precisely as it serves as an inexpensive and accessible source of connectivity for remote and marginalized communities.

Advances in technology have enabled a more efficient utilization of spectrum as they have allowed for the simultaneous use by multiple entities and technologies without interference or need for licenses.

Spectrum de-licensing is a flexible approach to spectrum management, which fuels innovation and market development. This can be seen in the case of WiFi (hotspots), which was created by industry efforts seeking to exploit spectrum that has been unlicensed by the
regulators.

When compared to India, regulators like the FCC and Ofcom have allocated more spectrum bands for licence-exempt use. The United States has unlicensed spectrum in the sub-1 GHz (UHF) band. Both USA and UK have furthermore de-licensed a greater range of frequencies in the 5 GHz band. Also, the 433-434 MHz band has been unlicensed in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the European Union, and New Zealand.76 In addition, the DECT frequencies in 1880 MHz-1900 MHz in Europe as well as 1900 MHz-1920 MHz and 1910 MHz-1930 MHz in some countries, including the United States, have been unlicensed.

Currently, many industry bodies and advocacy groups in India have specific requests for unlicensed spectrum. The requests cover candidate bands including, 433-434 MHz, more bands in sub-1 GHz, more slots under 2.4 GHz, 1880-1900 MHz, 5.15-5.35 GHz, and 5.725-5.825 GHz.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India had declared spectrum to be “public property” in 1995. Presently the policy environment in India appears to be showing support for more unlicensed spectrum for public use. The current Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology who is involved in the formation of new spectrum policies; a former regulator77; and the latest draft of the National Telecom Policy all speak positively for the future availability of unlicensed spectrum.

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