TRAI publishes 5G auction recommendations

12 Apr 2022

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published its recommendations for the auction of spectrum for 5G services, advising the government to release all available spectrum in the following bands: 600MHz, 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz, 2500MHz, 3300MHz-3670MHz and 24.25GHz-28.5GHz. The regulator had also raised the possibility of including frequencies in the 526MHz-612MHz range but due to the undeveloped ecosystem for the band, the absence of a band plan defined by the ITU or 3GPP and potential interference issues with TV transmitters (in the 526MHz-582MHz range), the TRAI recommended that the frequencies not be sold at the forthcoming auction. Instead, the regulator asked that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) develop a plan for refarming the 526MHz-582MHz range for IMT services.

Regarding the 600MHz band, the TRAI recommended that the APT 600 (Option B1) band plan be adopted for the range and that the entirety of the 2×40MHz band (612MHz-652MHz/663MHz-703MHz) be put up for sale. The TRAI’s recommendations suggested that the DoT take a flexible approach to the band plan for the 300MHz-3670MHz and 24.25GHz-28.5GHz bands, giving operators the choice of using the n77 or n78 and n257 or n258 band plans, respectively.

In terms of pricing, the TRAI’s recommended reserve prices for spectrum were set lower than previous auctions, with the regulator suggesting that the starting price be set at 70% of the spectrum’s estimated value. The TRAI used several different methodologies to estimate spectrum value as the circumstances for each varied. In the sought-after 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands, the TRAI recommended per MHz prices for nationwide spectrum at INR39.27 billion (USD517.9 million) for paired airwaves in the 700MHz band and INR3.17 billion (3.5GHz, unpaired).

The paper also set out recommendations for amended rollout obligations for licensees, rationalisation of spectrum caps and a simplified process for providers to surrender spectrum.