The Indian telecom regulator has floated a consultation paper on spectrum auction of various bands where it sought the stakeholder’s opinion on matters like when should the next spectrum auction be held and what should be the block size for bands that will be put up for auction, among many other issues. But the industry feels that the government should not rush with airwaves auction this year. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAIAlso Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sought written comments on the issues raised in the consultation paper from the stakeholders by September 25, 2017, and counter-comments by October 3, 2017 The consultation paper – ‘Auction of Spectrum in 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz bands’ – asked the stakeholders: “In your opinion when should the next access spectrum auction be held?” The new bands for auction would be 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz band”.
“The industry is undergoing an acute financial crisis which has also triggered mergers/consolidation in the sector. There is a considerable amount of uncertainty in the sector at present. Companies will need to wait for a little to see how the market dynamics play out. We feel that the Government of India should not rush to auction Spectrum this year and instead, allow the market to settle down in the wake of recent mergers and acquis” ions,” said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators’ Association of India. ALSO READ: TRAI chief snubbed RS Sharma telcos on allegation over network test paper
The COAI said the timing of the auction of any band should be not before the latter part of 2018 or better still early part of 2019 once all the consolidation has been announced and locked down. The paper also asked if the spectrum auction is held now, should the entire spectrum be put to auction or should it be done in a phased manner.
“Do you agree that in the upcoming auction, block sizes and minimum quantity for bidding in 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands, be kept same as in the last auction?” it asked. The paper also talked about spectrum cap. “Is there a need to prescribe spectrum cap in bands 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz What spectrum cap provisions should be kept for 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz spectrum”
“The Regulatory & Technical Standards for 5G are globally in the process of deliberations and consultations. 5G spectrum should be auctioned only after the ecosystem is developed, especially for services and apps that can work on all bands but would work much better and faster on5G spectrum. Thus 2019 might be an appropriate time to auction 5G spectrum as there will be better use cases and applications for 5G, for which at least a year or year and a half down the line is required. This will allow for a better understanding of the value of 5G spectrum and the resultant price” to bid,” Mathews added. ALSO READ: Telecom M&As mean better spectrum utilization, services: Manoj Sinha
Since 700 MHz was first auctioned in 2016, which did not get a good response from buyers, the watchdog in its consultation paper has asked: “Whether the value of 700 MHz spectrum should be derived by relating it to value of other bands by using technical efficiency factor? Else, what valuation approach should be adopted for the valuation of 700 MHz spectrum band?”
It further asked: “Whether the realized/auction determined prices achieved in the October 2016 auction for various spectrum bands can be taken as the reserve price in respective spectrum bands for the forthcoming auction?”