Need to expedite implementation of new telecom policy, lower 5G reserve price: DoT official

By: |
December 9, 2020 3:25 PM

Department of Telecom Member (Services) Bharat Kumar Jog said forward looking policies are needed to derive benefits from the emerging technologies.

Trai had recommended a plan to auction spectrum worth Rs 5.22 lakh crore.

There is a need to expedite implementation of new telecom policy approved by the Cabinet in 2018, and lower the reserve price for 5G spectrum, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Department of Telecom Member (Services) Bharat Kumar Jog said forward looking policies are needed to derive benefits from the emerging technologies.

“National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018 seeks to unlock transformative power of digital communications network to achieve the goal of digital empowerment and well being of the people of India. There is a need to expedite implementation of NDCP 2018. The government is working with all stakeholders for the same,” Jog said at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020.

The NDCP 2018 has most of the targets set to be achieved by 2022. However, several strategies that have been envisaged under the policy approved almost two years back are yet to be implemented including rationalisation of taxes, levies and spectrum price.

“The policy initiatives required from the government for 5G must include and ensure spectrum availability at affordable prices, lower reserve price, uniform RoW (right of way) policy for fiberisation etc,” Jog said.

Telecom operators have been demanding the government to make available spectrum for 5G at the earliest and lower the reserve price.

Mobile service providers can start 5G services in India once suitable airwave frequencies are allotted to them by the government.

Spectrum auctions in India were held every year between 2012 to 2016. No auctions have been held in the last four years.

The government started the process of spectrum auction but has not clarified the timeline for the sale to commence.

The Digital Communications Commission, the apex decision making body at DoT, had approved spectrum base price recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in May.

Mukesh Ambani-led firm Reliance Jio had in September too written to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash questioning the Department of Telecom’s (DoT) rationale to pause the policy of annual spectrum auctions and said the sale of airwaves should be held at the earliest to meet the demand for data services.

Trai had recommended a plan to auction spectrum worth Rs 5.22 lakh crore. However, some of the spectrum frequencies identified by DoT for auction are being used by the defence ministry and the Department of Space.

According to Jio, spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore is lying unused with DoT for auction.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel has said it will not buy 5G spectrum in the upcoming auction if its base price is fixed at Rs 492 crore per megahertz as recommended by regulator Trai.

The company has been reeling under a debt of Rs 1.14 lakh crore with liability to clear statutory dues of around Rs 35,500 crore, following a Supreme Court order in October 2019 that upheld the government’s stand on calculating levies over telecom licences.

Trai has recommended base price of proposed 5G spectrum in 3,300-3,600 Mhz band at about Rs 492 crore per Mhz unpaired spectrum on all India basis.

Telecom operators interested in buying radiowaves for 5G will have to shell out a minimum of Rs 9,840 crore on all-India basis to buy spectrum in 3,300-3,600 Mhz band as Trai has suggested that it “should be put to auction in the block size of 20 MHz.

This comes to around Rs 50,000 crore for 100 megahertz of 5G spectrum required to deliver high speed broadband services.

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