Spectrum regulation: ISMES detects violation of policy guidelines by private players
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.
VIOLATIONS OBSERVED BY ISMES
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