"Mobile broadband will be the backbone of 'Digital India'. Building smart cities, creating new businesses and e-commerce opportunities, being able to access e-government services or improving the delivery of education, healthcare and financial services are many of the benefit that rely on broadband connectivity."

However, ubiquitous mobile communications and broadband services will not become a reality without the availability of sufficient spectrum. In this context, current plans to auction spectrum could have severe consequences for India.

"Failure of operators to retain their currently used spectrum would not only jeopardise existing investments, but seriously threaten the continuity of the services provided to citizens across the country," the GSMA told Prasad in a letter.

The letter was written by GSMA Director General Anne Bouverot to Prasad on Nov 24. GSMA has 800 operators across 220 countries as its members.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address to the nation Aug 15 envisaged a Rs.1 lakh crore project to transform the country into a digitally empowered and connected knowledge economy.

"The country needs more spectrum to be able to maintain the continuity of the services. In the upcoming auction in February, only a small amount of airwave is put on sale. If the existing operators in those bands do not win requisite spectrum that means they have to stop their services in those bands," GSMA's India head Sandeep Karanwal said.

He also added that dearth of spectrum availability in auction may also spike spectrum prices artificially.

The GSMA's letter also said it "fully supports the recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to make additional spectrum available prior to holding any further auctions".

"Over 60 percent of harmonised spectrum is yet to be allocated to mobile in India. The next round of auction should only be conducted after adequate spectrum is made available in all key 800, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz frequencies, which are globally harmonised bands with mature ecosystems," it said.

Sector regulator, TRAI, had also warned that the "constrained supply of spectrum poses a real threat to the continuity of services being provided to millions of subscribers by expiry licensees".

"Also, the non-availability of sufficient spectrum is the biggest impediment to the realisation of the stated goals in National Telecom Policy 2012 for broadband proliferation," the TRAI had said in a recent statement.

The regulator reiterated that steps should be taken to make available spectrum in the 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz bands by taking back 1.2 MHz of 900 MHz spectrum from BSNL, utilising idle 1800 MHz spectrum in the defence band and vacating spectrum held in excess of 20 MHz by defence in the 1800 MHz band.

In December 2015, seven licenses each of Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications, four licenses of Bharti Airtel and six licenses of Vodafone will complete their 20-year term after which they should be renewed. The TRAI has set a price of Rs.3,004 crore per mega hertz for bandwidth to be auctioned in 18 service areas for the more efficient 900 Mhz band and Rs.2,138 crore per mega hertz for the 1,800 MHz band. The auction is expected to be held in February 2015.

In the 1,800 MHz band, 20 circles are going for auction, while in the 900 MHz band 18 circles will be up for sale.The revenue target set by the government in 2014-15 budget from spectrum auction is Rs.45,471 crore.

Karanwal also added that the industry is still awaiting a roadmap for spectrum auction, which the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government planned to come up within 100 days of taking charges.

Latest News  from Business News Desk