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TRAI Recommends Infrastructure Sharing, Separate Licenses For Terrestrial And Satellite Mobile TV

Broadcasters are probably not very pleased: as per the draft recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to the Indian government, no broadcasting company or group of broadcasting companies should be allowed to hold more than 20 percent stake in mobile TV operators, or vice versa. Additionally, to prevent cross holding, no entity or person (other than a financial institution) can hold more than 20 percent in both. This, however, doesn’t apply to holdings between a mobile television licensee and a DTH/HITS licensee/MSO/Cable Operator. So DTH operators like TATA Sky and Dish TV, which are both entities with broadcaster holdings, can launch mobile TV services. I think it’s important to note that the TRAI essentially views Mobile TV as a carriage service, and not a broadcast service.

Mobile operators have it easier – it’s recommended that they be allowed to offer Mobile TV services using their existing networks, and the Universal Access Service Licenses (UASL) and Cellular Mobile Telephone Service (CMTS) licenses be amended to that end. If, however, they choose to take the broadcast route to mobile TV, they’ll have to bid for Mobile TV licenses with the rest of applicants. In line with the mobile operator Foreign Direct Investment limit, the Mobile TV operator FDI limit has been expectedly set at 74 percent.

Spectrum And Infrastructure
Apart from Doordarshan, private operators may be assigned at least 1 slot of 8 MHz each, allocated automatically to successful bidders. Most importantly, the TRAI has recommended the sharing of infrastructure – both that of Doordarshan (DD) and in case any private operator that sets up its own. Let’s see how Prasar Bharti, of which DD is a part, will go ahead with this.

Licenses should be for 10 years, granted through a Closed Tender System. There’ll be a one time entry fees, with the Reserve One Time Entry Fee set at 50 percent of the highest bid for an area. There’s also a license fee of 6 percent of Gross Revenue for each year or 10% of the Reserve One Time Entry Fee limit (whichever is higher), payable every every quarter. The TRAI has suggested the creation of two separate mobile TV licenses – for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. To ensure competition, applicants they may bid for both types, but will have to choose one.

More in the extended text

The licensing area for Terrestrial is a state, or a combination of small states. Applicants will need to have a net worth of at least Rs. 3 Crores per service area; spectrum will be allocated to them in the UHF Band V (from 585 MHz

4 Responses to “TRAI Recommends Infrastructure Sharing, Separate Licenses For Terrestrial And Satellite Mobile TV”

  1. Indian regulator TRAI Announces Mobile TV Licensing Recommendations for India

    The Indian regulator for the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors has now issued recommendations for licensing of Mobile TV services in India. This completes the process of consultation on the Mobile TV and places the onus of announcing the License Policy on the ministry of information and broadcasting ( MIB).

    The licensing regulations primarily address the terrestrial broadcast mode for mobile TV. No recommendations have been made for the satellite mode of mobile TV services delivery, which incidentally had found a prominent place in its draft recommendations issued on 3rd Jan 2008. It has also left the mobile TV on cellular networks ( GSM, CDMA or 3G networks) to be governed by the operators mobile telephony( CMTS) or universal services licenses( UASL).

    The salient features of the Mobile TV policy recommendations are as follows:
    – Technology Neutrality (i.e. DVB-H, DMB or FLO technologies have been permitted along with others).
    – 74% FDI permitted, but no broadcasting or Cable TV company can hold more than 20% in a mobile TV company. Likewise a mobile TV company can not hold more than 20% in a broadcasting or Cable TV company
    – Licenses to be issued for each “Circle” or for the entire country based on a bidding process for licenses.
    – Each licensee to be issued Spectrum of 8 MHz in UHF band V(585-806 MHz), only one license( or one spectrum slot) to be permitted to any one company
    – 4% of gross revenues or 5% of the highest license bid; whichever is higher; to be paid as revenue share every year
    -Net Worth requirements of $0.75 Million ( Appox.) per service area. This translates to about $15 million for the country.
    -Services to commence within 18 months; enforced by a performance bank guarantee of $0.5 million for each service area ( $11 million for the country).
    – Content to be regulated by the content code of the MIB

    Comments on the recommendations
    -The mobile TV licensing recommendations as issued are quite onerous in terms of the license fees and ongoing revenue shares. The performance bank guarantees are also very high.
    -Linking of annual revenue share to 5% of the highest bid for an area seems to lack any logic as a rouge bid would imply all operators needing to pay a very high license fees.
    – By placing equity cross holding restrictions on broadcasting companies, it virtually prohibits such operators to extend their services to the mobile screen- a natural extension.
    This means that different companies need to be formed for each screen size or mode of delivery.
    – The mobile TV services, per se, have not been defined. Does mobile TV mean delivery to mobile devices or does it mean to those with a specific screen size such as QCIF or QVGA or is it by basing it on terrestrial broadcast.

    – The recommendations are silent on the relationship pf mobile TV with standard definition terrestrial TV (such as DVB-T). In most implementations DVB-H services can be delivered on the same carrier as that used for DVB-T. The same is the case in ISDB-T technology used in Japan. In the recommendations now issued, such operation has been ruled out.
    – The recommendations make no reference to other delivery extensions such as WiMAX, another mode of delivery of mobile TV Technologies.
    – Interchangeability of handsets has been prescribed between different service provides ( if the handsets are provided by them). This is tricky with various versions of the same technology much less between different technologies. An example is the DVB-H technologies based on OMA-BCAST or DVB-CMBS implementations.
    – The recommendations are silent on audio services to be provided on the same media. At present the FM, to which parallels have been drawn throughout, does not permit news and current affairs.
    – No requirements are placed on mobile operators to give a reference interconnect offer for the return path, which may be critical in many implementations. The mobile operators providing services on their own networks have a conflict of interest with the broadcasters providing services via a terrestrial medium- the subject of current licensing policy.
    – All mobile TV licensees are required to share their infrastructure with other mobile TV licensees. This can lead to a wait and watch game in the 18 months leading to the launch of services to piggyback on the operator which launches services first, though it is expected that Doordarshan infrastructure may initially be used by all licensees. This can have serious implications if a company setting up infrastructure can not derive a competitive advantage from the same. The cellular operators however have been kept beyond the purview of such compulsory sharing.
    – The FDI of 74% is inconsistent with the current licensing policy in the media sector where 49% is the norm.
    – If the licensing process as outlined by the TRAI results in multiple operators in different states, the phones will have no interoperability and limited utility limited to a city. ( See Chapter 9, Interoperability in Mobile TV. (

    On the whole it appears that the ministry of information and broadcasting which sought the recommendations in the first place may have a hard task to maintain a semblance of uniformity of treatment to broadcasters as against cellular operators for providing the same service.

  2. Mayannk thakkar


    The recommendation by TRAI – is good but it would take time to implement the same or come to a conclusive stages. – seeing the 2G spectrum allocation and 3G is still in the pipelines with no clues how to give it either to beauty comtest or one time fee. Atleast in this case one time entry fee is good enough to move .

    On the techonolgy aspects its good to have open standard and leave it upto the service provider to decide on the technology – either DVB -H or DVB-SH or MEdia flo or S_-DMB or ISDBT- but what about MBMS or LG lastes TV platform – whcih remains a question mark ?

    Prestly many countries are either taking a seperate auction route for mobile TV license like ITaly / Germany / Austria / Singaprore and some countries bundling DVB-T license coupled with DVB-H license.

    Thus the main aspect would be when all things are put in place n practice – more sooner the better that will make India on the Golbal Telecom map


  3. The regulator has now announced the draft Policy for mobile TV, which is based squarely on the treatment of mobile TV as a different service, a different spectrum band and a different transmission from any terrestrial transmissions.
    How out of place it is, can be seen from the recent development of mobile pedestrian handheld (MPH) and its demonstration at CES 2008.
    It has ignored all suggestions for a "universal broadcaster" which can broadcast on all screen sizes, high definition, standard definition and mobile. The responses which were submitted to the TRAI for its consultation paper also supported this concept and highlighted the fact that the existing technologies such as DVB-T or ISDB-T can support mobile TV on the same carrier. Now it so turns out that this is true for ATSC-MPH as well and the Americas will by next year have universal broadcast networks and not split ones line India.
    LG has unveiled the MPH technology for delivery of TV for handhelds in the United States and other countries using the ATSC standard. This could be one of the most important developments in the field of Mobile TV for North America, which does not have the advantage of DVB-H technology being able to ride on the DVB-T networks being installed currently in many regions of the world including Europe and Asia.
    This time, the advantage, however appears to be with the MPH technology as it does not need any additional spectrum. The MPH can enable any device for mobile TV by the use of miniature cards or USB attachments.
    This implies that within a year, all mobile devices, such as personal media players, gaming devices or cell phones could be enabled for mobile television programming reception. The reception is possible upto 90 Kilometers per hour, which is a reasonable speed in city conditions.
    MPH is based on highly efficient MPEG4 encoding coupled with VSB transmission of mobile TV content. The key advantage of the technology appears to be the use of the existing frequency spectrum used for standard definition or high definition digital television transmissions as well as the existing transmitter infrastructure, with only an additional exciter.
    This can turn out to be a major differentiator, as spectrum costs can be very high. Many countries ( such as India, for example) are set upon auctioning the mobile TV licenses based on the fact that it needs to use additional spectrum. The license pricing is essentially the price of the additional 8 MHz spectrum.
    The new technology, once in place will create a totally new universe of receiving devices with personal media players(PMPs), gaming devices, Standalone TV mobile receivers coming into vogue.

    The key issue is that the Zee Network has been recommending the declaration of a “Universal broadcaster” policy which permits a broadcaster to transmit on any of the screen sizes e.g. a high definition, standard definition or mobile Tv screens, rather than splitting it with a separate license. We have pointed out that the existing technologies such as DVB-T, ISDB-T use the same carrier for all types of transmissions. Now this is coming true even for ATSC with MPH. When the MPH goes live in the united states in 2009, the network will be universal and not split into multiple screen types.

    In a region characterized as the largest mobile TV market in the world, with Korea, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and others having launched mobile TV services, the Indian regulator TRAI has now issued draft recommendations for licensing of mobile TV services. The draft recommendations come after a brief consultation process. India is the fastest growing cellular mobile market in the world with over 8 million users being added every month( nearly a 100 million a year at current pace) but is beset with serious policy issues of licensing, spectrum allocation and regulation. 3G spectrum is not yet allocated in the country and time is running out for many companies which target mobile multimedia services.

    The TRAI has recommended a bidding process for licensing of mobile TV services, with a one time entry fee as being the sole criteria for the selection of bidders. Upto 74% foreign direct investment will be permitted in mobile TV companies. Technology neutrality has been permitted in the licenses; i.e. the licensees can roll out networks based on any of the commonly used technologies for mobile TV. Each successful bidder is to be allocated one spectrum slot of 8 MHz irrespective of technology.

    The regulator has proposed to allow all mobile companies to start providing mobile TV services without any entry fee or any additional license fees. It has however not elaborated how these will be provided in the absence of allocation of 3G spectrum.

    For the terrestrial transmission based mobile TV services, however a very severe regime has been proposed. Only those technologies are to be allowed which have a base of at least 100,000 users. This may be difficult to meet for many technologies, which have undergone trials but the networks are under launch.

    The yearly license fees for such companies is to be 6% of gross revenues plus 5% of the highest bid for one time entry fee. As the license fees for entry can be very high, the yearly license fees is set at an unprecedented high scale. However mobile companies providing identical services need to pay no such license fees.

    Mobile TV licenses have been offered separately for Terrestrial broadcast and Satellite based services. The roll out times provided are 1 year, otherwise the bidders need to agree to forego a performance guarantee of $5 million. ( For whole of India).

    The regulator has chosen to be silent on how a satellite system can be coordinated and made operational within one year.
    The present recommendations are in a draft form and the regulator will issue final recommendations after 10th Jan 2008. The government is then expected to come out with policy to regulate and issue licenses in the sector based on these policies.

    Previous recommendations of the TRAI on digital terrestrial broadcasting issued in 2005 are yet to see the light of the day in the form of policy announceme