Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash. (PTI)
Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash. (PTI)

Govt plans to auction 5G waves by Jan, says telecom secretary

  • Digital Communications Commission is deciding on auctioneer, reserve price, says Anshu Prakash
  • The panel held a meeting on Thursday to approve 4G connectivity proposals for uncovered regions

NEW DELHI : The roadmap for the rollout of 5G technology in India is still under examination and the government will appoint an auctioneer soon as it plans to conduct an auction for the premium airwaves by January, telecom secretary Anshu Prakash said on Thursday.

“By end of this year or by January, we should have the auction (for 5G airwaves)," said Prakash, the chairperson of the Digital Communications Commission, which comprises officials from the departments of telecommunications, electronics and information technology, and revenue, as well as government think-tank NITI Aayog.

The 5G technology will lead to much higher data speeds and propel Internet of Things, which will transform sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and education.

“We have already started the process of deciding who will conduct the auction. The request for proposal is done, inter-ministerial committees are happening, hopefully very soon we will decide who the auctioneer is and in parallel, we take all these other decisions such as what the reserve prices are. We will take a call on it," he said.

The government did not auction any spectrum in fiscals 2017-18 and 2018-19. In 2016-17, the government had raised 65,789 crore through the sale of spectrum, a fraction of the 5.63 trillion worth of spectrum, at base price, it had offered for sale. While the total spectrum put up for sale was 2,354.44MHz across seven bands, the government managed to auction just 965MHz.

The Digital Communications Commission met on Thursday to approve 4G connectivity proposals for uncovered regions and measures to make access to telecom services and smartphones easier for those with disabilities. It has also sent a formal request to the ministry of housing and urban affairs to ensure that telcos are able to improve network coverage inside buildings.

“We will request the ministry of housing and urban affairs to issue guidelines to resident welfare associations (RWAs) to provide access to telcos on a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner. No RWA or any building should enter into any arrangement that results in any exclusive access to any particular telco," Prakash said. This may require a relook at unified building bylaws, he said.

The department has also decided to urge telcos to identify customers with disabilities and provide special benefits and suggest mobile manufacturing companies that make more than five phone models to make one model for such persons.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had first sent its suggestions on 5G, in August last year. Trai has priced the 3,300-3,600 MHz band, expected to be the primary band for 5G services, at 492 crore per megahertz. Bharti Airtel has said these prices are exorbitant and it would not participate in any auction held at these prices. In South Korea, the same band was priced at roughly 131 crore per megahertz in auctions held in June last year.

The regulator stood by its spectrum pricing proposal again in July this year after the Digital Communications Commission sought a comprehensive review of the Trai’s recommendations. The government’s call to review came with the aim of ensuring greater competition, sale of all spectrum on offer, and bringing the benefits of 5G to social sectors.

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