Trai to decide on 5G spectrum sale after consultation process

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is likely to arrive at a decision concerning airwaves sale in the 3300-3600Mhz band after the outcome of ongoing consultation process, according to a top official.

The regulator has initiated an industry-wide consultation process late August for the frequencies in the 3200-3400 Mhz which is primarily used to offer fifth-generation or 5G services together with radio waves in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands.

With 5G rollout is expected worldwide by 2020, the sector watchdog’s decision on the back of telecom department’s reference to include airwaves in the 3.2Ghz-3.6Ghz may hit a roadblock, following telcos demand to extend auction timeline.

Consultation process is on for the spectrum in 3300-3600Mhz band. Some stakeholders have commented and we have to examine it whether some have said this (putting off 5G spectrum auction),” Trai secretary Sunil K Gupta said.

The telecom department (DoT), however, has proposed to include 100 MHz in all the 22 licenced telecom circles in the 3300-3400 MHz band for access services in the next auction in accordance with a resolution passed in the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC).

“In a consultation process, everybody can have a say. Some may say no, others may say yes. All views will come before the authority and after the open house discussion (OHD), we will take a view,” Gupta said.

Depending upon the outcome, recommendations would go that way to the government, the Trai official added.

However, in a response to Trai, top telcos – Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have said that there was no need to hold auction and timing for the consultation was inappropriate and an opportune time would be the end of 2018-19.

Top industry group GSMA also said that the government should take account of the ‘economic reality’ of the mobile business in India while aiming proceeds from the spectrum auction.

London-based organization, however, said that auctioning 3300-3600 Mhz band spectrum for 5G services would be critical for mobile broadband use in the coming years.

Trai’s Gupta also said that 5G services could be rolled out over radio waves in the 700Mhz band, and ruled out any price revision.

“There is no reference of price revision by DoT. We have already recommended a pricing of 700Mhz band and based on that last auction was conducted,” he added.

In 2016 auction, the airwaves in the premium 700Mhz band priced at Rs 11,485 crore per unit left unsold with telcos alleging it too expensive to buy.