NEW DELHI :
Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision making authority in the department of telecommunications, is set to meet today to deliberate on the process for conducting upcoming spectrum auctions.
The government has already floated an RFP (request for proposal) to appoint an auctioneer for the process. The government had last conducted auctions in 2016, managing to sell only a fraction of the spectrum on offer.
India’s telecom sector witnessed disruption after the entry of Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd, in September 2016, led to an intense tariff war, bringing down data prices to rock bottom and making voice calls free. Following which, many had to shut shop or were acquired by bigger players. The domestic telecom market is now largely a three-way play between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Jio.
The spectrum auction that the government plans to hold in the current financial year will likely include airwaves for 5G services.
This puts the spotlight on the country’s roadmap for the rollout of next generation wireless technology which is set to catapult data speeds and propel Internet of Things, yielding industry altering changes for agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and education.
A decision today, if it comes, will likely set the ball rolling for operators' plans for launching such services in India. The industry will watch out for whether the government will agree to lower spectrum prices.
In August, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had 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 ₹492 crore per megahertz. While Bharti Airtel Ltd has said these prices are exorbitant and it would not participate in an auction 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 ₹131 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 ₹5.63 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.