Policy Framework for Spectrum Management in Emerging Economies: Lessons from Mobile Broadband Spectrum Allocations in India and the Philippines
30 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013 Last revised: 26 Mar 2018
Date Written: August 15, 2013
Given the sparse wire line/cable infrastructure in most emerging economies, mobile broadband is likely to become the mode of broadband access for most people in these countries, especially given the near ubiquity of mobile networks.
Spectrum allocations for 2G mobile services in many emerging economies happened in the context of weak policy and regulatory institutional infrastructure, using allocation mechanisms that were often not transparent. However, since then, spectrum auctions have gained greater acceptance as an instrument for allocation. Several countries have also adopted more market oriented mechanisms such as re-farming (India, Philippines, Sri Lanka) and some have introduced trading (Gautemala).
Despite adopting newer methods of spectrum management, deployment of mobile broadband is constrained as many emerging economies have to contend with the legacy issues of 2G allocations, as several bands for mobile broadband are those used for 2G as well (900 and 1800, 1900 MHz). Some of these issues relate to licenses being technology and service specific, no specific policy for re-farmimg or inadequate incentives for incumbents to move to newer/other spectrum bands. On the other hand, developed countries such as USA and UK are able to design and implement new instruments such as “incentive auctions” and spectrum trading respectively, not only facilitating market mechanisms to prevail, but also showing agility and ability to adopt new ideas in the regulatory and policy bodies. Such aspects are often lacking in an emerging economy context.
This paper examines the context of spectrum allocation for mobile broadband in India and Philippines. Besides established regulatory institutions -- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) respectively, the courts and the media have had a role to play in this allocation. Both countries also are dealing with the legacy allocations. For example, in India, the Supreme Court had cancelled 122 2G licenses and directed TRAI to auction the spectrum so released. But TRAI withheld some spectrum, citing future requirements of re-farming for mobile broadband. The Supreme Court reiterated that all spectrum related to cancelled licenses had to be auctioned. Similarly, in Philippines, there were cases in the court relating to allocation of 3G spectrum and reallocation of spectrum from broadcasting to BWA services by NTC.
This paper adopts the case based approach advocated by Eisenhardt (1989) and Yin (2003) to generalize from the selected mobile broadband allocation context in India and Philippines to delineate the role of the regulatory and policy making agencies, judiciary and other institutions in spectrum management. We used primary and secondary sources of data for developing the cases. Primary sources of data include interviews with key decision makers in TRAI and the operators. These were supplemented by secondary data such as court judgments, media reports and journal articles.
Based on this, we develop a framework for spectrum management both in terms of the institutional structure and market mechanisms that would enable developing countries to manage spectrum and develop more market based and innovative strategies.
In relation to the increasing gap in broadband deployment and adoption between emerging economies and developed countries, it is important to review the policy and regulatory frameworks in emerging economies that could accelerate broadband growth. This paper contributes by contextualizing institutional roles and instruments in emerging economies in spectrum management, and by doing a comparative study, we believe this study makes a unique contribution, especially as there a few studies based in emerging economies.
Keywords: mobile broadband, institutional framework, market mechanisms, Telecom policy
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