The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has begun consultations with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department of Space for making airwaves available in the 3,300-3,600 megahertz (MHz) band for the upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.
The auctions are expected to take place by the end of the year. The 3,300-3,600 MHz band will be crucial to the success of 5G auctions, as telcos have been making a pitch for having large chunks of contiguous spectrum for seamless 5G services.
Currently, 25 MHz of spectrum is with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and 40 MHz is with MoD, or 22 per cent of the total 300 MHz airwaves available in the 3,300-3,600 MHz band.
“The spectrum with MoD is lying idle and if it requires, we can give it airwaves in some other band. Also for Isro, it can be given the spectrum in some other band,” said an official in the know.
It is learnt that the matter may not the go to Cabinet and that DoT is trying to resolve it through interministerial consultations.
Failure to provide larger chunks of the 3,300-3,600 MHz band may result in muted response from telcos and other enterprises for the auctions. As such, telcos have found the reserve price for the upcoming auctions expensive.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) came out with its recommendations on the reserve price for spectrum in August 2018. The Digital Communications Commission (DCC) in June 2019 asked the regulator to review its suggestions on the base price, as the telecom industry was going through ‘financial stress’, and some of the mobile service providers found the prices very high.
Trai in turn stuck to its earlier (August 2018) recommendations on spectrum pricing and in response to the DCC, the regulator said it had considered all the relevant factors, including methodology, assumptions, and developments in the telecom sector before giving its views.
Now the matter — to increase or decrease the spectrum base price — rests with the Centre.
Trai had recommended a pan-Indian base price of Rs 492 crore per MHz for 5G radiowaves, while lowering the base price of frequencies that remained unsold in the 2016 auctions. Airwaves in the 3,300-3,600 MHz 5G band will be auctioned in the block size of 20 MHz.
The reserve price for the premium 700 MHz spectrum, which went unsold in the 2016 auctions, was reduced by more than 40 per cent to Rs 6,568 crore per MHz all-India, from Rs 11,485 crore in 2016.
Trai had recommended a base price of Rs 4,651 crore for paired spectrum in the 800 MHz band covering 19 circles, Rs 1,622 crore per MHz for the 900 MHz band covering seven circles, Rs 3,399 crore per MHz in the 2,100 MHz band covering 21 circles, and Rs 821 crore per MHz in the 2,500-MHz band covering 12 circles. It also suggested Rs 960 crore per MHz for unpaired spectrum in the 2,300-MHz band on a pan-Indian basis.
The central government earned Rs 65,789 crore from spectrum auctions in 2016. The bands sold were 2G, 3G, and 4G.―Business Standard