Telecom industry body COAI has requested the department of telecom to extend deadline for roll out of 4G services to 2020 citing various hurdles mainly delay in development of technology and regulatory procedures.
"DoT is requested to review and relax the roll out obligations and extend the timelines for meeting the roll out by additional 5 years," COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said in a letter to DoT.
The body has cited difficulties in rolling out the LTE-TDD (a 4G technology) as among reasons for delay in roll out of 4G services. The broadband wireless access spectrum, that can be used for 4G services, was allocated through auction in 2010.
Aircel, Bharti Airtel, Qualcomm (acquired by Bharti), Tikona, Infotel (now Reliance Jio Infocomm) and Augere emerged as successful bidders of BWA spectrum. As per auction conditions, the successful bidders are required to provide 90 per cent coverage in metro area, if they have spectrum there, and 50% of rural area within five years.
If a company fails to meet roll-out conditions, spectrum will be taken back. The BWA spectrum were allocated to all companies, except Qualcomm, in July 2010.
Qualcomm was allocated BWA spectrum in May 2012 due to a a dispute with DoT which was later resolved in court. Till date only Aircel and Airtel have launched 4G services in limited way in some service areas.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, which hold pan-India BWA spectrum, plans to launch its services in 2015. "The inability of the operators to even launch the services on the allocated spectrum is primarily on account of delay in development of the requisite device and network ecosystem, a prime factor which is predominantly out of the control of telecom service providers," COAI said.
The industry body said that roll out of 4G services using BWA spectrum required more number of mobile towers compared to other spectrum for coverage.
It added that the permission for the same has been facing restriction from municipal bodies, interference from public due to apprehension from mobile radiation and clearances from various authorities in laying out fibre to connect these towers. COAI said that telecom operators have faced severe delays in obtaining clearances from spectrum wing of DoT required for installing mobile sites.
It said that DoT has neither released full list of rural exchanges where coverage has to be provided nor finalised test schedule which gives an indication of how the coverage compliance will be assessed.
COAI also raised the issue of delay of 2 years by DoT in providing backhaul spectrum to operators which eventually affected roll out of 4G network.