TRAI begins process of pricing 5G spectrum for upcoming auction

1 Dec 2021

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published a consultation paper regarding plans to auction spectrum for 5G services. Under consideration for sale are frequencies in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz, 2500MH, 3300MHz-3670MHz and 24.25GHz-28.5GHz bands, as well as additional sub-1GHz frequencies. The publication seeks input from stakeholders on a wide range of matters relating to the auction, such as: band plans for frequency ranges identified for 5G, including the 526MHz-617MHz, 3300MHz-3670MHz and 24.25GHz-28.5GHz ranges; block sizes and minimum quantities for bids; rollout obligations; and spectrum caps and the return of spectrum. Most notably, though, the TRAI has sought opinions on the pricing of the spectrum to be auctioned as well as the methodology for determining those prices. TeleGeography notes that the spectrum costs have been a contentious issue in India over the last decade, with the fallout from the 2G spectrum scandal leading to inflated prices which were then maintained through subsequent tenders. The financial burden of the excessive spectrum costs was a contributing factor in the sector’s recent financial crisis and the consolidation of the market from over a dozen providers to six: Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi), state-owned providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), and Reliance Communications (RCOM) – although the last-named provider had only a token presence and was in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings.