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Prescribed rollout obligations reasonable, in line with global 5G norms, TRAI

Telecom regulator TRAI has said the rollout obligations prescribed by it as part of the recent spectrum recommendations are easy, fair and rational, and fully in line with global 5G norms.

Responding to the telecom industry’s views that minimum rollout obligations are a ‘retrograde step’ and should be done away with, a senior TRAI official told PTI that the regulator’s recommendations are aimed at ensuring efficient use of radiowaves for the maximum benefit of telecom consumers.

The rollout obligations are reasonable and the logic is well-explained in TRAI’s recommendation document, the official said, adding that the minimum rollout obligations have been prescribed in other 5G markets as well.

Moreover, the network rollout terms spelt out by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are easy and and simple, the official added.

Further, the official said that TRAI is duty-bound to see that the benefits of 5G are available to not only the service providers but also to customers and citizens, and accordingly, the recommendations aim to ensure efficient utilisation of spectrum.

Not prescribing minimum rollout conditions may lead to under utilisation of spectrum resources, given that the pricing of radiowaves have been recommended with near 40 per cent cut across bands, the official noted.

Explaining the math behind the rollout conditions, the official also pointed out that the regulator looked at 4G rollout average of five years and prescribed one-fourth of those levels that too spread over different circles for the next 3-5 years.

If an operator leverages an existing tower or street furniture and adds small cells, it will be treated as a site under the rollout obligations, the official added.

When asked about mobile operators’ demand for a review of spectrum pricing and other conditions, the official said that there is no provision under TRAI Act for re-look, and that too within one week of release of recommendations, which are completely “rational” and backed by thorough analysis.

Setting the stage for the rollout of 5G services, the regulator, earlier this month, recommended a mega auction plan valued at over Rs 7.5 lakh crore at the base price across multiple bands for radiowaves to be allocated over 30 years.

Overall, TRAI recommended about a 39 per cent reduction in the reserve or floor price for the sale of spectrum for mobile services, including the latest 5G offering, as it looked to match revenue expectations with the industry’s paying capacity.

The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), however, expressed anguish over TRAI’s 5G recommendations, terming the spectrum pricing suggested by the regulator as “too high”, while also objecting to roll out conditions and other nuances.

COAI had also said that by introducing mandatory rollout obligations for 5G networks without even factoring the huge cost of such a rollout, “TRAI has delinked itself from reality and is running counter to the government’s efforts of enhancing ease of doing business”.

“It’s best to let the service providers be the judge for rollout of networks based on market dynamics. No operator invests in large quantum of spectrum and network capex and opex without a clear monetisation roadmap and the companies are answerable to their investors and stakeholders,” COAI had said.

The industry association has also objected to what it terms are high spectrum prices and urged the regulator to “revisit its spectrum pricing recommendations”. PTI

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