The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued its response to a number of spectrum management proposals made by the country’s Department of Telecommunications, which included suggestions that the Economic Times noted could mean that market leaders Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India will be unable to participate in the first tranche of 4G (700MHz) spectrum licensing.

TRAI said that restricting bids for 700MHz spectrum to companies which do not already hold 800MHz or 900MHz frequencies may be a way to “establish a level playing field” in the country. In line with this, it was noted that the ability to “refarm” the 800MHz and 900MHz spectrum to support more advanced services should be explored.

The operators excluded from the first round would be able to buy 700MHz frequencies subsequently, at a price in-line with the previous issue.

While there is already some use of 700MHz frequencies by various agencies in India, TRAI said that “there is adequate spectrum in this band that can be put to commercial use immediately.” It also notes that the refarming of 800MHz/900MHz bands “would result in substantial revenues, in tens of thousands of crore rupees, accruing to the Government.”

Following the issuing of 3G licences in India last year, TRAI acknowledged that the country has “lagged behind in the introduction of 3G and needs to catch up with the rest of the world in 4G/LTE for which the 700 MHz band offers immense potential.”

TRAI also briefly commented on the previously-discussed issue of operators working together to offer 3G roaming in areas where they do not hold licences, by stating that this “been examined separately by the Authority and its views already communicated to the DOT.”