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Telecom dept, TRAI gauging 5G spectrum availability

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is expected to submit its responses to the queries of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) around spectrum availability within a week, thus setting the ball rolling for the regulator to start the preparatory work for 5G auctions.

The regulator had asked DoT to give a clear road map around spectrum availability, usage by government entities and other players like broadcasters as well as notification of various bands. This is because Trai wants clarity on all the aspects of spectrum before coming out with a consultation paper for the upcoming auction.

According to sources, DoT has prepared the responses and once they are approved by the telecom secretary, they would be despatched to Trai. The regulator wants clarity on spectrum bands because DoT is yet to come out with a national frequency allocation plan (NFAP) and in the absence of that, it becomes difficult to allocate any particular band for 5G technology. There are various spectrum bands and stakeholders, including mobile operators, satellite players and broadcasters are staking claim on them. Once the NFAP is released, it will give clarity on all these aspects.

Communications and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently said the 5G spectrum auction is likely to take place around April-May next year. Earlier, the government was aiming to conduct the auction in March.

In September, DoT had written to Trai seeking its recommendations on pricing, quantum and other modalities pertaining to spectrum in multiple bands. DoT’s reference seeks views of Trai on base price, quantum and all other modalities for spectrum across multiple bands. These include bands such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz as also 3,300-3,600 MHz bands (that were not put up for auctions in the last round), and millimetre-wave band (that is 24.25-28.5 GHz).

The last round of spectrum auction, held in March this year, had raked-in winning bids of over Rs 77,800 crore for 855.6 MHz of spectrum. The industry is hopeful of a cut in reserve price of spectrum as the dynamics of the sector has changed now with just three players against six to seven earlier. In the last auctions, all the airwaves were sold at reserve price only with majority of the spectrum remaining unsold. For instance, in the March auction, of the total 2,308 MHz of spectrum on sale, which at reserve price was worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore, saw only 37% getting sold. Two bands, 700 MHz and 2500 MHz saw no takers. Financial Express

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