Tuesday, December 7, 2021

5G spectrum auction may get delayed this time

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The 5G spectrum auctions will most probably be held in February 2022, and the government may even try for a January timeline, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said a couple of weeks ago. But now it seems that the authorities will miss its January-March timeline to conduct an public sale of 4G and 5G airwaves except the telecom regulator sends in its pricing suggestions by November as reported by The Economic Times.

If this delay happens then the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will conduct the 5G sale afterward in 2022 however might not wait till the fourth quarter of the following fiscal year. “The regulator has to send pricing recommendations by November and if that happens then auctions can be held in the January-March quarter of 2022,” said a person who is aware of the development to The Economic Times. “If the November timeline is not met, then sale will happen anytime in the year,” the person said.

The department of telecommunications has already sent a reference to the regulator seeking a fresh reserve price for 5G spectrum in the 3300-3600 MHz band, along with that for the premium 4G band 700 MHz (which supports 5G services). In addition, the DoT has added around 70 MHz of spectrum in the mid-band like 24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz, which also supports 5G services.

TRAI has also been asked to suggest the fresh base price for the unsold spectrum in the previous auctions, held earlier this year, in bands like 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz. Though TRAI had, in 2018, submitted the reserve price for 5G spectrum in the 3300-3600 MHz, the auction for this band was not held in March. The DoT feels that by the time the next auctions take place, four years would have elapsed so a revision in prices is required.

As for the 700 MHz band , there were no takers in the last two auctions due to the high base price. This time neither the regulator nor the government wants to be embarrassed by the spectrum remaining unsold.

Industry consultants say the November deadline will likely be powerful for TRAI to stick to, since there are plenty of forwards and backwards between TRAI, business and the DoT earlier than the ultimate pricing is accepted. After a DoT reference, Trai conducts a course of which features a four-week interval for stakeholders to submit their views after a session paper is floated, adopted by two weeks for counter feedback. Then TRAI holds open-house discussions earlier than arriving at its suggestions. The entire course of traditionally takes about four-five to months.

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