A Telecom lobby group feels that telcos were ready to deploy as many as 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots across the country if the government looks at financial incentives or co-relates it with allocating a chunk of fifth-generation or 5G Technology spectrum for free.“There are innovative ways to look at and if the government co-relates initiatives such as implementation of 5 lakh hotspots with allocating X-amount of 5G spectrum for free or have a money back kind of arrangement, it will be a right step,” Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) director general Rajan S Mathews told ETT.
Delhi-based COAI represents incumbent operators such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone India and Idea cellular.
In a recent meet chaired by Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked service providers to provide a three-year roadmap on how they would create a public Wi-Fi system for broadband proliferation.
DoT hopes to rapidly roll-out 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots across the country by the end of 2018, with at least one in every village in India.
The financially-stressed industry with a debt of more than Rs 6 lakh crore, however, maintained that the pricing of recently-recommended airwaves in the 3300-3600 Mhz used to rollout 5G services, are high, and the government should also identify different bands in which ecosystem is better developed.
Mathews said that Rs 492 crore per unit pricing, as suggested by the regulator, is 30% higher than other countries.
“Government should change the whole paradigm. Some countries are saying to give 5G spectrum for free provided telcos do something like rollout in rural areas for first three years,” COAI’s top executive added.
There is a plenty of spectrum available in the country and the government should not always consider to make money,” Mathews said, and added that some countries were looking at 24Ghz – 36GHz range, and in such frequency bands, ecosystem is developing much faster.
However, sector watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has rejected industry concerns over spectrum pricing especially for the 5G band for the next auctions, saying it has followed international benchmarks.
Market leader Bharti Airtel too believes that the base price of Rs 492 crore per Mhz would require a whopping $700 billion for acquiring 100Mhz of spectrum.
The 5G pricing is not sustainable going forward, Bharti Airtel’s senior vice president — Strategy, Architecture & Engineering, Sandeep Gupta said, adding that in China, the cost to acquire 100 Mhz of spectrum comes at $500 million and $200 million in Spain for a period of 20 years.
London-based GSMA too believes that government while formulating policies should also take account of the fact that telcos 75% spend is towards spectrum purchase.
“5G brings a country-level competition to fore and is supported at a national level as we look at nations like China, Japan and Korea,” GSMA India senior public policy director Manoj Misra said. – My Jio