Frequency, 4G, Regulation, Vision, and Efficiency: Naisha

The eruption of Merapi throughout October-November 2010 left many stories about suffering. But there are also not a few stories about entrepreneurship.


When the devastating eruption of Mount Merapi early Friday morning (November 5, 2010) occurred, when the community rode langgang because they did not expect Merapi to go berserk in a very high eruption intensity and reached a very long radius, no communication could be done in the disaster area except for “amateur” radios such as those owned by activists of the 14,907 MHz frequency.


The mobile is paralyzed, most likely because the BTS is swept away by hot clouds or indeed has no power to withstand the load of traffic. So no doubt, all evacuation operations for refugees and evacuation of bodies of disaster victims are based on information traffic that is ravaging at this frequency of 149.07MHz. Moreover, the nature of radio communication is multidirectional and can be monitored directly by many people in unison.


When Jogja was hit by panic due to inaccurate media reports, or misunderstood due to panic hunting, and hoax information that was infested, then various reports with a relaxed tone and as is flowing from this frequency managed to ward off panic from continuing into severe chaos.


Socially Strategic


On Sunday night (6/11), the day after the big eruption the previous Friday, I had a chance to chat with Mas Utha aka Sri Hartoyo and friends, radio volunteers from the frequency of 149.07MHz or more popular with the abbreviation Merapi Balerante 907. The chatter took place at an emergency post in Babarsari, Yogyakarta, where they were temporarily based following the collapse of their permanent headquarters in Balerante, five kilometers from the top of Merapi.


From the original post in Balerante (precisely in Gondang Hamlet, Balerante Village, Kemalang District, Klaten Regency, Central Java) which is very close, a visual report on the condition of the peak of Merapi is ideal. Visual observations supported by an understanding of the technical language translation of seismographs are the advantages of this community in understanding merapi characteristics. However, the burst of clouds and hot material of Merapi this time swept to a very far radius and not much was predicted in advance, including devouring the hamlet of Balerante.


The 907 activists themselves are very officers, not concerned with self-safety in order to inform those in need: residents around Merapi and volunteers. Not infrequently news hunters from within and outside the country, even official government and private agencies also use the information flowing in 907 as a standard reference for action and reporting. Understandably, the information provided is information as it is, with layman’s language to make it easier for the community to understand, and is carried out by activists who understand Merapi very well, and without any pretensions other than helping residents.


“Good evening, visually reported from Manisrenggo… It can be seen that incandescent lava avalanches lead to the Gendhol River… The rumbling sound is still heard… Light rain… The wind tends to be silent…” That’s roughly the preaching done by the ikhlaswans at various points. There is one in Sleman. Some entered the Klaten region. These volunteer figures never get the spotlight (let alone rewards) from other parties. In fact, not infrequently they report situations through HT while running or riding a motorcycle, avoiding the pursuit of Wedhus Gembel. Not only reporting while taking a distance, the evacuation of living or dead victims is also included in their daily activities. Like being ready to exchange one soul as long as many other souls survive.


It is remarkable that this self-help radio managed by citizens without government interference is actually transformed into an officer commander in times of disaster. Even when there was jamming by irresponsible parties, the various government and security agencies that were reported on the matter did not respond adequately.


Whereas the deliberate frequency disturbance was carried out at the crucial moments of evacuation of victims by volunteers when the hot clouds still continued to threaten the operation. It’s really inhumane. I don’t know what the motivation for the barbaric deed is. Some say other frequency community competition. Some say it comes from the parties who are cynical because it is precisely the “unofficial ” channel ” 907 that many parties rely on during disasters, not agencies or parties tasked by the bureaucracy.


The frequency used for community communication 907 includes public frequencies that only need to be regulated by internal community organizations, in this case ORARI. Generally, each of the activists of a certain frequency stays on the ground (ground coffee) after intense communication in the air. So eventually frequency de facto seems to be the “property” of those who intensely engage in certain frequencies. His membership became very fluid. Merapi Balerante 907, for example, currently has an active membership of about 850 people, with more than 2000 sympathizers and monitoring people.


The mastery of the frequency is not stamped with a decree or notarial deed. So if there is a disturbance, as balerante 907 experienced, there is not much that can be done. But fortunately, because it concerns the lives of many people in the evacuation process, it is said that the Yogyakarta Monitoring Center is ready to prosecute the captured jammer.


Economically Strategic


The frequency in the above events is very contextual with the dynamics of the telecommunications world today. Frequency is a natural resource that is increasingly strategic in value. The case of Balerante 907 it has demonstrated the strategic value of frequency socially, what about its economic value?


Ask the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kemenkominfo) which is collecting large revenues from this sector. In 2009, the Ministry of Communication and Information achieved PNBP (Non-Tax State Revenue) of around 7 trillion rupiah or contributed around 6.4 percent to the total PNBP of the state. Meanwhile, in 2010 the figure jumped by about 30 percent or to around 8.5 to 9.1 trillion rupiah. Almost 80 percent of PNBP from the Ministry of Communication and Information is contributed by the Directorate General of Postel, mainly from frequency management. The telecommunications sector accounts for 90 percent of the frequency Right to Use Fee (BHP), which reaches 5.13 trillion rupiah, while the broadcasting sector only contributes 20 billion rupiah this year (Koran Jakarta, 28/12/10).


The frequency in the telecommunications sector is becoming increasingly strategic. The telecommunications sector is developing dynamically with new technologies whose implementation requires special frequencies, while their availability is minimal.  Whereas in other sectors such as broadcasting, the availability of frequency spectrum is quite abundant with a small contribution of revenue to the country.


The founder of the Center for Indonesia Telecommunications Regulation Study (CITRUS), Asmiyati Rasyid, as reported by Bisnis Indonesia ( 26/12, said that currently the spectrum has been divided equally to all operators without any priority, which is given to operators who actually build infrastructure. The spectrum allocation for broadcasting use is also too large, even reaching more than 150MHz, while Telkomsel, which has 130 million subscribers, is only 80MHz, XL with more than 30 million subscribers is only 40MHz, or the same as Natrindo Cellular Phones (NTS) which only has 8 million people.


Worse, based on data from the Directorate General of Postel, the spectrum allocation for telecommunications in 2010 only reached 585 MHz, including for GSM, CDMA, and trunking (but provided a PNBP of 90% or Rp5.13 trillion). Whereas the spectrum allocation for private television, including satellites controls almost 1,100 MHz with a PNBP contribution of only 0.03%.


This unbalanced proportion of frequency spectrum allocations and contributions is a legacy of past regulations. There have been many cases that show that this frequency setting in the country is patchy and does not have a clear long-term vision.


One of the consequences is like the case that is currently harassing Smart Telecom. At the end of October, the Ministry of Communication and Information threatened the revocation of PT Smart Telecom’s license, because it was considered to have failed to pay the Frequency Right to Use Fee (BHP) since 2006, which amounted to Rp 484 billion. In response, Smart’s management asked for a cut in the amount of BHP by half because it felt that it was not operating as a 3G operator so it had to pay BHP like a 3G operator. They hope to only pay around Rp 242 billion. And indeed that amount is recommended by the Financial and Development Supervisory Agency (BPKP) and the Attorney General. But Minister of Communication and Information Tifatul Sembiring was unmoved.


Though Smart was only a victim of the patchwork of frequency settings in the past. Smart uses the 1900MHz frequency spectrum that was originally forced by the government to abandon its previous residents: C-Phone, TelkomFlexi, and StarOne. These three have to move to 800MHz, competing with Mobile-8. The government reasoned, 1900MHz will be used for 3G services. Surprisingly, not long after, the frequency was awarded to Smart with 5 channels, which in fact is not a 3G operator.


This December the government softened and was willing to accept a recount of the amount of BHP from a third party. But still for a while smart’s three canals were sealed by the government so that only two canals could be operated.




The matter of frequency in telecommunications is getting warmer when recently the industry was warmed up with the trial of LTE (Long Term Evolution), one of the technologies that has just been inaugurated in the 4G category by ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The last trial conducted by XL and Ericsson was a success, except in terms of which frequency determination to use.


President Director of XL, Hasnul Suhaimi said, after the existing frequencies are available, then the LTE network can run. “It will take at least the next 2-3 years,” he said. Meanwhile, the Director of Frequency Management of Communication and Informatics, Tulus Rahardjo, said, “The government is now working on frequencies for LTE. So that this technology can run as soon as possible, so that the industry will develop as expected.”


LTE generally in Indonesia seems to have to be held at a frequency of 2.3GHz as used for various trials today. Other countries such as India and China also use this frequency for LTE.


What about other frequencies that are plural used for LTE such as 700MHz, 2.6GHz, and 1.8GHz?


The 700MHz frequency, as it works in the US, is currently being occupied by national private televisions. It will have to wait until 2018 when all television stations have already migrated to digital television.

Likewise, the spectrum of 150MHz at a frequency of 2.6GHz is being licensed by the MNC business group.

LTE can also be held at 1.8GHz, but it must first be refarming the frequencies that are now widely used by national GSM operators.


Refarming is indeed a key word, as well as to clean up old regulations that are not visionary in the future. With refarming, a relatively idle spectrum can be streamlined to create for future technologies, such as 4G. It is not intended to deify the telecommunications sector, but indeed the development of this area does need dynamic regulatory support, as well as visionary. Moreover, it is already factual that the contribution to the state in the form of PNBP is very significant. In addition, the contribution from the growth of broadband penetration is very tempting. McKinsey (2010) released an additional gdp growth figure of 0.5% for every additional 10% of broadband penetration in a country.


Brazil’s telecommunications regulator, ANATEL, this year refarming the 2.6GHz frequency that was originally licensed all to pay-TV companies. Now the television occupies only 70MHz and is not interrupted by its operation.


From the UK it was reported that their telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, is also ready to refarming, although the need is “just” to work on 3G services. Currently 3G in the UK only relies on the frequency of 2.1GHz. With refarming, operators will be able to move at frequencies of 1.8GHz and 900MHz.


Actually, we are also experienced in refarming, which is when the 1900MHz frequency is cleaned and about to be handed over to the 3G licensee. But the “sacred intention” of the refarming was then questioned by people when it was later given to Smart Telecom which was clearly not a 3G operator. It seems that behind that there are other motives besides efficiency and vision for the future.


In fact, frequency remanagement, or reregulation, or refarming, or whatever other designation, must be based on those two fundamental elements: efficiency and vision.

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