Spec­trum reg­u­la­tion: ISMES de­tects vi­o­la­tion of pol­icy guide­lines by pri­vate play­ers

Bureaucracy Today - - MINISTRY WATCH - By Soma Chakraborty

emerg­ing in In­dia have ex­po­nen­tially in­creased the de­mand for ra­dio fre­quency spec­trum which is a scarce and lim­ited nat­u­ral re­source. With new tech­nolo­gies be­ing in­ducted into cru­cial sec­tors like the de­fence and in­tel­li­gence wings, spec­trum man­age­ment has be­come a crit­i­cal as­pect in view of na­tional se­cu­rity. Data and in­puts ac­cessed by Bu­reau­cracy To­day from re­li­able sources in the Jalna-based In­ter­na­tional Satel­lite Mon­i­tor­ing Earth Sta­tion (ISMES), re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing satel­lite ser­vices in the coun­try, bring to light gross vi­o­la­tions of the Govern­ment pol­icy guide­lines, the non-re­newal of li­cences and drift­ing from au­tho­rized pa­ram­e­ters for li­cences by pri­vate play­ers. A re­port.

Spec­trum is a range of elec­tro­mag­netic ra­dio fre­quen­cies used for the trans­mis­sion of voice, data and im­ages. In In­dia, ra­dio fre­quen­cies are be­ing used for dif­fer­ent types of ser­vices like space com­mu­ni­ca­tion, mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tion, broad­cast­ing, ra­dio nav­i­ga­tion, mo­bile satel­lite ser­vice, aero­nau­ti­cal satel­lite ser­vices and de­fence com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Ra­dio fre­quency is a nat­u­ral re­source but un­like other re­sources it gets de­pleted when used. There is a se­vere scarcity of spec­trum which can be made avail­able to sup­port var­i­ous kinds of ser­vices. As per avail­able data from the De­part­ment of Space, there are only 289 transpon­ders avail­able for satel­lite ser­vices in In­dia, out of which 94 transpon­ders are on lease from for­eign satel­lites.

With the emer­gence of new tech­nolo­gies in the IT and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sec­tor in In­dia, the de­mand for satel­lite spec­trum has in­creased man­i­fold. In order to en­sure in­ter­fer­ence-free ser­vices to end-users as well as ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion, it is nec­es­sary to keep a tab on satel­lite ser­vices on a con­tin­u­ous ba­sis, more specif­i­cally in cases where for­eign satel­lites are in­volved. Un­der the pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Tele­graph Act and the In­dian Wire­less Teleg­ra­phy Act, the dif­fer­ent types of pub­lic util­ity ser­vices us­ing Wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion are be­ing li­censed in In­dia. The Wire­less Plan­ning & Co­or­di­na­tion (WPC) Wing un­der the Min­istry of IT & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing ra­dio li­cences and al­lot­ting and mon­i­tor­ing fre­quency spec­trum. The In­ter­na­tional Satel­lite Mon­i­tor­ing Earth Sta­tion in Jalna, Ma­ha­rash­tra, which is un­der the WPC Wing, has re­cently un­earthed per­sis­tent ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, go­ing on for al­most a decade, by pri­vate play­ers, sources tell Bu­reau­cracy To­day. “Fol­low­ing the reve­la­tion made by the ISMES, in April 2014, for the first time in the his­tory of the satel­lite in­dus­try the Min­istry of IT & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is­sued no­tices to 20 prom­i­nent com­pa­nies for in­fringe-- ments,” ISMES Head Ajay Sing­hal tells Bu­reau­cracy To­day.


Sixty cases of de­fault came to light be­tween July 2013 and April 2014 af­ter a team led by Sing­hal and Engi­neer Mon­i­tor­ing Onkar Nath Ya­dav mon­i­tored nine types of most im­por­tant satel­lite­based ser­vices cov­er­ing all ma­jor ser­vice providers hav­ing max­i­mum quan­tity of spec­trum band­width. “As per Cen­tral Govern­ment guide­lines for up­link­ing of Dig­i­tal Satel­lite News Gath­er­ing (DSNG), it is manda­tory that DSNG op­er­a­tions must be en­crypted and are not meant for di­rect re­cep­tion by the pub­lic. But, sev­eral DSNG ser­vice providers were not ad­her­ing to these guide­lines. In De­cem­ber 2013, the tem­po­rary up­link­ing per­mis­sion for live cov­er­age of a Hockey tour­na­ment was given to a re­puted DSNG op­er­a­tor but dur­ing the mon­i­tor­ing as­sign­ment it was ob­served that the sig­nals up­linked were not en­crypted,” an ISMES source tells Bu­reau­cracy To­day.

The team also de­tected 60 cases where

ser­vice providers were us­ing dif­fer­ent For­ward Er­ror Cor­rec­tion (FEC) or mod­u­la­tion scheme than the one au­tho­rized to them. “As many as 30 cases of such vi­o­la­tions were re­ported for DTH ser­vice providers alone which has a cus­tomer base of ap­prox­i­mately 4.5 crore,” the source says.

FEC or chan­nel cod­ing is a tech­nique used for con­trol­ling er­rors in data trans­mis­sion over un­re­li­able or noisy com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels. “Spec­trum al­lo­ca­tion to ser­vice providers is be­ing done within the lim­its of cer­tain au­tho­rized pa­ram­e­ters so as to en­sure in­ter­fer­ence-free ser­vices to mil­lions of end-users. De­vi­a­tion from these pa­ram­e­ters can af­fect the qual­ity of ser­vice to end-users. The com­pa­nies are not sup­posed to change the pa­ram­e­ters be­fore ob­tain­ing re­vised per­mis­sion from the Min­istry,” Ajay Sing­hal tells Bu­reau­cracy To­day.

Cor­re­spond­ing to each spec­trum al­lo­ca­tion there has been a cen­tre fre­quency which is used for the trans­mis­sion of satel­lite sig­nals. The fre­quency is be­ing as­signed in such a way so as to avoid in­ter­fer­ence to en­dusers. Any de­vi­a­tion in the use of as­signed fre­quency is a vi­o­la­tion of the In­dian Tele­graph Act. How­ever, the mon­i­tor­ing team found that some com­pa­nies were not ad­her­ing to the fre­quency au­tho­rized to them in their li­cences. Such de­vi­a­tion can cause se­vere in­ter­fer­ence to any other pub­lic util­ity ser­vices. “In March 2014, the WPC Wing as­signed one car­rier fre­quency to a prom­i­nent DSNG ser­vice provider for live tele­cast/up­link­ing of a sports event but dur­ing mon­i­tor­ing it was ob­served that this tele­cast/up­link­ing was done on some other fre­quency for which no prior per­mis­sion was ob­tained,” Sing­hal says.

The 1997-batch In­dian Engi­neer­ing Ser­vice (IES) of­fi­cer fur­ther says, “The Cen­tral Govern­ment re­ceives li­cence fees and roy­alty charges cor­re­spond­ing to the quan­tity of spec­trum al­lot­ted on the ba­sis of terms and con­di­tions as de­cided by the Min­istry from time to time. We also high­lighted some cases in which the ser­vice provider con­cerned was found to be oc­cu­py­ing more band­width than that al­lot­ted by the Min­istry.”

Satel­lite TV chan­nels in In­dia re­quire per­mis­sion of the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Broad­cast­ing and in order to uplink those chan­nels the spec­trum al­lo­ca­tion is done by the WPC Wing of the IT & Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­istry. As on March 31, 2014, the num­ber of chan­nels per­mit­ted in In­dia for up­link­ing was 705. “We mon­i­tored all the 705 chan­nels with a view to ver­i­fy­ing the oc­cu­pied spec­trum band-

“Spec­trum has a huge so­cio–eco­nomic im­pact on so­ci­ety. There is no dearth of poli­cies but ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of laws en­acted is re­quired. In order to en­sure le­gal and op­ti­mum uti­liza­tion of al­lo­cated spec­trum, it is nec­es­sary to have a mech­a­nism for ver­i­fy­ing the con­form­ity of satel­lite-based ser­vices op­er­at­ing within au­tho­rized pa­ram­e­ters.”

RAVI SHANKAR PRASAD, Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and Law and Jus­tice

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