Editorial – December 2018

Sunil Bharti Mittal promoted Bharti Airtel is not willing to buy 5G spectrum at this stage. It expects the auction to be deferred. This was disclosed by Brokerage BNP Paribas after a briefing by Airtel’s leadership team at a recent analyst meet.

The government, on its part, has not yet signalled any defined auction timelines, with telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan saying only that the 5G spectrum sale is likely in the second half of calendar 2019.

However, globally 5G deployment is moving fast. A US report shows that China is positioning itself to be a global leader in 5G.

Instead of waiting for a green signal from Mr Mittal, the DoT should open up auction immediately. Manufacturing for 5G equipment has already started in India. China has already placed orders for 5G network on Nokia. Spectrum worth Rs 5 lakh crore cannot be kept lying idle just for a nod from Mr Mittal.

On Aug 1, 2018, Trai in its recommendations to the DoT had advised the government to auction the spectrum at regular intervals. This can be easily done. Any operator who wants spectrum can submit an application to DoT anytime during the year. All such applications should be clubbed twice in a year and desired spectrum should be put to auction. This is happening in the oil ministry where the blocks are auctioned twice a year based on such applications.

Recently, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit to Japan hailed India’s “tremendous progress” in the digital infrastructure, saying 1 GB data is cheaper than the smallest bottle of cold drink in the country. He praised the expanding network of telecommunications and internet in India. This should not be stopped, rather escalated.