Reliance Jio seeks urgent spectrum auction, says further delay can lead to “serious quality of service issues”

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September 30, 2020 8:00 AM

The company has also targeted Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel for their apparent opposition to auctions, terming it a means to stifle competition as they have amassed large amounts of spectrum through mergers and acquisitions and are losing customers every month.

The telco said delay in auctions will keep huge amounts of spectrum vacant with the government, generating no revenue and hurting the national exchequer and economy.The telco said delay in auctions will keep huge amounts of spectrum vacant with the government, generating no revenue and hurting the national exchequer and economy.

Reliance Jio has demanded that a spectrum auction be conducted immediately as airwaves worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore have been lying unused for four years, and any further delay can lead to “serious quality of service issues”.

The company has also targeted Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel for their apparent opposition to auctions, terming it a means to stifle competition as they have amassed large amounts of spectrum through mergers and acquisitions and are losing customers every month.

In a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, Reliance Jio said, “We are unable to find any reasonable rationale behind this sudden pause in a successful and fruitful policy of auctioning all available spectrum every year, since the Supreme Court decision in 2012.”

The telco said delay in auctions will keep huge amounts of spectrum vacant with the government, generating no revenue and hurting the national exchequer and economy. “Immediate auction can generate around Rs 25,000 crore upfront before December 2020,” Jio said.

Auctions were conducted every year from 2012 to 2016, after which one hasn’t taken place. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had given its recommendations for spectrum auction in August 2018 and a reconsidered opinion in July 2019. The Digital Communication Commission has already recommended a reserve price, quantity of spectrum and other associated conditions in May 2020 for approval of the Cabinet, but a notice inviting application has not been issued till date.

“Some of the operators are merely interested in perpetuating their 2G technologies and [monetising] the old equipment as much as possible. We submit that nation-building policies should not be kept hostage to vested interests of [these] few,” Jio said, without naming Airtel or Vodafone Idea.

The company, though, shared the spectrum quantum and subscriber base of both. As per this data, Vodafone Idea has a spectrum holding of 1704.1 Mhz with a subscriber base of 305.10 million as of June 2020, while Airtel has 1588.9 Mhz spectrum with 316.67 million subscribers. In contrast, Jio has 1107.8 Mhz spectrum and 397.25 million subscribers.

Jio said that in the four years since the last auction, there has been exponential increase in traffic. Data usage has increased a whopping 50 times, with a 3.5-time jump in wireless broadband users. With this, spectrum requirements have increased. To meet the demand, Jio has been deploying more towers than most other telcos worldwide, but spectral efficiency has been drastically reduced after densification of towers.

“We have now reached an inflection point where there is no substitute to additional spectrum and any more delay can lead to very serious quality of service issues with potentially deteriorated voice quality in terms of call drops and access failures,” Jio said.

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