Home / Industry / Telecom /  Spotlight on India’s 5G rollout roadmap with top panel meeting today

New Delhi: The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision making authority at the Department of Telecommunications, is set to meet Wednesday to deliberate on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) suggestions on conducting upcoming auctions – the first for 5G airwaves.

This puts the spotlight on the country’s roadmap for rollout of next generation wireless technology which is set to boost data speeds and Internet of Things (IoT), resulting in industry altering changes for agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and education.

The decision today will set the ball rolling for operators' plans for launching such services in India. The industry will keenly watch out for the government’s decision on lowering spectrum prices.

This will be the first time the commission will meet after the telecom regulator on 8 July said it would stick to its earlier stand on pricing for next spectrum auctions, as it believes that the auction is an open process and players other than existing licencees could also participate.

This caused a setback to debt laden telecom companies which have been clamouring for lower spectrum prices.

The regulator’s response came after the commission last month sought a comprehensive review of the Trai’s recommendations on upcoming spectrum auctions, including reserve prices.

The government’s call to review came with an aim to ensure greater competition, sale of all spectrum and bringing the benefits of 5G to social sector. The government is keen to conduct the auction this year. It is also worried that the demand for spectrum is likely to be subdued due to consolidation in the market as currently there are effectively three private telecom service providers.

The sector saw intense disruption after Reliance Jio’s entry in September 2016 pulled down data prices to rock bottom and made voice calls free. This forced other operators to match tariffs, which saw many shutting shop or being acquired by bigger players. Now, the market is essentially left to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio.

The government had last month also urged the telecom regulator to review its suggestions so that the entire spectrum which is put for auction is sold rather than having a situation where large quantum of spectrum remains unsold.

In August, Trai said the 3,300-3,600 MHz band, expected to be the primary band for 5G services, should be auctioned as a single band and in blocks of 20MHz each at Rs492 crore per megahertz. While Bharti Airtel Ltd has said these prices are exorbitant and it would not participate in an auction held at these prices, Vodafone Idea Ltd has suggested the 5G auction take place in 2020.

In South Korea, the same band was priced at roughly Rs131 crore per megahertz in auctions held in June last year.

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 spectrum sale, a fraction of the Rs5.63 trillion worth of spectrum, at base price, it had put up for sale. While the total spectrum put up for sale was 2,354.44MHz across seven bands, the government managed to auction just 965MHz.

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