Spectrum sale minus 5G band
The department of telecom (DoT) is likely to hold spectrum auction before October without the frequency band considered suitable for 5G services, according to official sources involved in the process.
The department is expected to finalise the auctioneer — the agency that will develop and manage the software for the auction — by May 22 and the timeline will also depend on the firm selected.
“Four bidders have qualified in the technical round. These include two firms that have experience of spectrum auction. In case an experienced firm is selected, the auction can begin after two months, and in the other case, it can begin after three months. Based on the plan in process, the auction can start in August-September also, but the timeline will not go beyond October,” a source said.
The source mentioned that DoT is also preparing a cabinet note to get approval for the auction which does not include spectrum in the frequency range of 3,300-3,600MHz band that was proposed to be used for 5G services.
The defence ministry has demanded 100MHz of spectrum for 5G radiowaves that leaves DoT with only 175MHz for auction.
“The discussion is on between DoT and the ministry of defence. However, several licences of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are coming up for renewal and they will need to bid for spectrum to continue their mobile services. Therefore, DoT will need to go ahead with the auction for the rest of the bands,” the source said.
The planned auction will put around 8,000MHz of spectrum under the hammer. This would include 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz and 2500MHz bands cumulatively, valuing around Rs 3 lakh crore.
Telecom operators have not been comfortable with what they claim as the high base price of Rs 492 crore per megahertz of 5G spectrum finalised by the Digital Communications Commission (DCC).
A task force constituted under the finance ministry too echoed that the 5G spectrum price is too high given the stress in the sector.