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DoT looking for a reset of reserve prices of 5G trials’ spectrum  from TRAI  

The telecom department is set to approach the sector regulator later this week to suggest reserve prices for all spectrum bands recently cleared for 5G trials, in the run up to the next airwaves sale, a senior official told ET. Among the spectrum bands are the coveted millimetre waves (26/28 GHz) and 700 MHz bands.

The official said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is also likely to ask Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to set “a starting price for the 600 MHz sub-GHz band”, which has not been auctioned previously.

India’s top telcos – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea — have been pushing the government to auction the super-efficient mmWave bands, such as 26/28 GHz, without which, they claim, 5G services won’t be affordable for consumers.

DoT’s upcoming referral to Trai could also lead to the sector regulator cutting the earlier base prices of the premium-sub-GHz 700 MHz band–which went unsold for the second auction in succession in March–as well as mid-band 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands that have been termed by telcos as exorbitant.

“DoT is likely to send a reference this week to Trai to set reserve prices for all 5G bands approved for trials, including sub-GHz, mid-band and mmWaves. The base price of mid-band 5G spectrum set in August 2018 is old and needs a reset along with the recommendations for the other 5G bands,” the official in the department said.

Telcos are being given experimental airwaves in mid-band (3.2-3.67 GHz), sub-GHz (700/800 MHz) and mmWave bands (26-28 GHz) to run 5G trials for six months. So far, only mid-band spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz bands has been earmarked by the government for 5G services.

Accordingly, the upcoming DoT reference could see the inclusion of mmWaves in the next spectrum sale likely to see a debut of multiple 5G bands.

Government insiders said that in parallel with the 5G spectrum pricing reference to Trai, DoT is likely to also speed up the process of updating a key spectrum policy document–National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP-2021)–to include all 5G bands cleared for trials, a move aimed at underlining DoT’s resolve to go for a comprehensive auction of multiple 5G bands soon.

DoT, though, is yet to schedule the next sale.Telcos have repeatedly said that without an immediate reset of 700 MHz spectrum pricing in line with other sub-GHz bands, there won’t be any takers for these airwaves for a third time. In the recently concluded airwave auctions, the government mopped up only Rs 77,814 crore, selling 37% of the over 2,300 units of spectrum across seven bands on sale. This was largely since the expensive 700 MHz band went unsold for a second time— as in the October 2016 sale — due to what telcos said was its high price. Koliasa

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