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4-min read

Trai Recommends Rs 5.7 Lakh Crore Auction Plan for 8293 Mhz Mobile Radio Waves

The Department of Telecom in its reference to Trai had informed the regulator about the availability of 8,096.45 Mhz of spectrum across nine bands.


Updated:August 1, 2018, 11:51 PM IST
Trai Recommends Rs 5.7 Lakh Crore Auction Plan for 8293 Mhz Mobile Radio Waves
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New Delhi: In its largest ever spectrum sale, regulator Trai on Wednesday recommended an auction of 8,293.95 Mhz of telecom frequencies at an estimated total base price of Rs 5.77 lakh crore, which is slightly higher than that for the previous sale.

"Entire available spectrum should be put to auction in the forthcoming auction," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in its recommendation on the auction of spectrum.

The Department of Telecom in its reference to Trai had informed the regulator about the availability of 8,096.45 Mhz of spectrum across nine bands.

The recommendation, if approved by the government, will lead to the country's biggest spectrum auction in terms of quantum of frequencies and over three-fold the size of spectrum that was put for sale in 2016 at a cumulative base price of Rs 5.63 lakh crore.

Trai has suggested a steep cut of 43 per cent in the base price at around Rs 6,568 crore per Mhz for the premium 700Mhz band frequencies which failed to attract bidders in the last auction.

For the next-generation services, the watchdog recommended a pan-India base price of Rs 492 crore per megahertz unpaired spectrum for proposed 5G spectrum (3300-3600Mhz). The price is about a third of that set for 2G (1800 MHz) frequencies during the 2012 sale.

The government had fixed a pan-India base price at around Rs 2,800 crore per Mhz for 2G spectrum -- both uplink and downlink, translating into Rs 1,400 crore per Mhz for unpaired spectrum.

Telecom operators bidding in the next round of auctions for the spectrum to provide next generation of mobile services will have to shell out a minimum of Rs 9,840 crore on pan-India basis to buy spectrum in 3300-3600 Mhz band as Trai has suggested that it "should be put to auction in the block size of 20 MHz".

The proposed reduction in base prices received a thumbs-up by the telecom industry.

"For now, we are glad that the government has decided to bring down the price of spectrum, especially for the 700 MHz band," Rajan S Mathews, the Director General of industry body COAI, said in a statement.

Based on Trai recommendations submitted to the government, the base prices and timing for the next round of auctions will be finalised.

Trai has recommended the auction of entire spectrum available in various bands barring the specific locations or districts where ISRO is using the 25 MHz (3400 MHz - 3425 MHz) of the spectrum.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has suggested a base price of Rs 3,285 per megahertz for paired spectrum in 1800 Mhz band.

For the premium 700 Mhz band, Trai has said that its "reserve price...should be equal to 2 times of reserve price of 1800 MHz spectrum band", resulting in about 43 per cent reduction in the price of this band to Rs 6,568 crore per Mhz for paired spectrum.

In 2016, the government had fixed the base price of 700 Mhz band at Rs 11,485 crore per Mhz, which was around four times the price of 1800 Mhz band. Operators were required to buy radiowaves worth Rs 57,425 crore to provide mobile service in this band.

The cost of providing 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services through 700Mhz band is estimated to be around one-third of that incurred in 1800 Mhz band.

In the previous 2016 auction, a total of 2,354.55 megahertz of mobile airwaves were put for sale but nearly 60 per cent of the radio waves, including premium Rs 4 lakh crore worth spectrum in 700 Mhz band, remained unsold.

If Trai recommendations are approved by the government, then telecom operators in the next round will have shell out a minimum of Rs 32,840 crore for providing services in the 700 Mhz band on pan India basis.

"Considering the current financial stress the industry is going through, lowering the spectrum prices alone doesn't fix anything. Until and unless the SUC(spectrum usage charges), licence fees and other levies are lowered as well, the industry may not be able to cope with the requirements for state-of-the-art infrastructure needed for new technologies and early roll-out of 5G," Mathews said.

Trai has recommended base price of Rs 4,651 crore for paired spectrum in 800 Mhz band covering 19 circles, Rs 1,622 crore per Mhz for 900 Mhz band covering seven circles, Rs 3,399 crore per Mhz of in 2100 Mhz covering 21 circles and Rs 821 crore per Mhz in 2500 Mhz band covering 12 circles.

The regulator has recommended Rs 960 crore per Mhz for unpaired spectrum in 2300 Mhz band on a pan-India basis.

To avoid monopolisation of suggested 5G spectrum band, Trai has recommended a limit of 100 MHz per bidder and also "the lock-in period for spectrum in this band for becoming eligible for spectrum trading should be 5 years" instead of 2 years applicable for other bands.

It has suggested no time bound network roll out obligation for buyers of the potential 5G spectrum but for other sets of spectrum norms mentioned in the earlier auction should apply.

The regulator has recommended that in case a company has closed 2G GSM or CDMA services, it cannot hold the administratively (without auction) assigned spectrum for which it has not paid the market-determined price.

"Any such spectrum lying with TSPs (telecom service providers) should be taken back and put to auction in the forthcoming auction," Trai said.

Its has reiterated need for an urgent audit of all allocated spectrum -- commercial as well as the one given to various public sector units and government organizations through an independent agency on a regular basis.

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