- Reliance Jio holds spectrum in 850 MHz/ 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands
- Bharti Airtel holds spectrum in 850 MHz/ 900 MHz/ 1800 MHz/ 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz bands
- Vodafone Idea holds spectrum in 900 MHz/ 1800 MHz/ 2100 MHz/ 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands
- BSNL/MTNL holds spectrum in 850 MHz/ 900 MHz/ 1800 MHz/ 2100 MHz/ 2500 MHz bands
Spectrum is for telecommunication what fuel is for aviation. Spectrum is a range of electromagnetic frequencies or airwaves which are used by the telecom companies for establishing a connection between a cell tower and a mobile phone. The bandwidth of this spectrum is directly proportional to the speed of a wireless data network (since more data can be transmitted simultaneously through a broader data pipeline) whereas the frequency is inversely proportional to the coverage (since lower frequencies penetrate better through physical barriers and thus have wider coverage).
The spectrum holding data sheet embedded in this article represents the current spectrum holdings of all active telecom operators across all frequency bands across all 22 telecom circles along with their liberalisation status and expiry dates (Spectrum is allotted for a period of 20 years). All figures represented are in MHz. We update this chart in realtime to ensure it is always up to date with the latest changes.
Spectrum may be paired or unpaired, bands 28/5/8/3/1 are all paired where one set of frequencies is used for uplink whereas another distinct set of frequencies is used for downlink (Frequency division duplexing FDD), whereas bands 40 and 41 are unpaired where both uplink and downlink happens in the same set of frequencies separated by the time of uplink and downlink (Time division duplexing TDD).
Spectrum was administratively allocated to operators in each of the 22 licensed service areas or circles pre 2010, this spectrum is called non-liberalised and can only be used for 2G services whereas all airwaves allotted post-2010 has been through a Spectrum Auction where operators have paid market discovered price and this spectrum is called liberalised and can be used for any technology platform 2G/3G/4G.
Spectrum is auctioned in blocks which are chunks of spectrum, the block size is different for different bands. Block size for 700 MHz band is 5 MHz, for 850 MHz it is 1.25 MHz, for 900 and 1800 MHz bands it is 0.2 MHz, for 2100 MHz it is 5 MHz, for 2300 and 2500 MHz bands it is 10 MHz. Private operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea bid for these blocks in the auction whereas spectrum is reserved for PSU operator BSNL which matches the highest bid of the auction.
There is a spectrum cap which dictates how much spectrum a particular operator can hold in a circle in a particular band. An operator can own the right to use spectrum only in a quantum less than or equal to 50% of the combined available spectrum in all sub GHz bands (Band28+Band5+Band8) in a given licence area (circle) and less than or equal to 35% of the total available spectrum across all bands put together in a given licence area.
Apart from auctions, operators can buy or sell spectrum usage rights from each other which is called spectrum trading. Operators may also sign a spectrum sharing agreement to share their spectrum holdings to achieve a pooled spectrum holding with more bandwidth. Jio currently has a spectrum sharing agreement with Rcom for band 5 spectrum in 21 circles.