Indian Government May Reduce Base Price For 5G Spectrum: Report


By Juan Pedro Tomás

The government of India may lower the base price for 5G frequencies in the upcoming spectrum auction, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

The decision to lower the price of 5G spectrum will potentially enable the participation of more operators and accelerate the rollout of 5G in the country.

The source added that the Indian government expects to award 5G frequencies in August or September.

The government had previously set the reserve price for 5G airwaves at INR4.92 billion  (US$64.1 million) per MHz of spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band.

Earlier this year, local operators said that the reserve price for the 5G spectrum needs to be cut down by more than 90 per cent for the upcoming spectrum auction, with no upfront payment and a moratorium of 5-6 years.

Vodafone Idea had said the reserve price for frequencies in the 3.300-3.670 GHz band would have to be reduced by almost 90 per cent compared to the previous reserve price of INR 4.92 billion/MHz for pan-India spectrum,. For the mmWave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz), the reserve price should not be more than 1 per cent of the pricing for 3.300-3.670 GHz on a per megahertz basis.

Meanwhile, rival operator Reliance Jio had submitted comments to Indian regulator Trai stating that the reserve price for mid-band spectrum should be reduced by around 95 per cent for a pan-India 100-megahertz block and the reserve price of mmWave bands should be kept at 1 per cent of the mid-band.  Bharti Airtel also said spectrum prices should at best be nominal and thus not be more than 10 per cent of the prices recommended by the Indian government in 2018.

The operators have highlighted that Trai’s past valuation methods need to be revised due to the altered market realities including the health of industry and the telcos’ revenue generation ability.

According to previous reports, India plans to award bands such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.3-3.6 GHz bands. Through the spectrum auction, operators will be also able to bid for spectrum in the millimeter-wave band.

Indian operators Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have previously received a six-month extension from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to conduct 5G trials. With this extension, the carriers will be able to carry out 5G trials until May 2022. Initially, telcos had been authorized to test 5G technology until the end of November 2021.

In May last year, the DoT had awarded 5G trial spectrum for six months in the 700 Mhz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, paving the way for local carriers to partner and develop 5G use cases.

Nokia in talks to replace Huawei in parts of Vodafone Idea’s network

In related news, Finnish vendor Nokia is having negotiations to replace Huawei’s 4G radio equipment from parts of Vodafone Idea’s telecom network in India, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The deal will see Nokia deploying 12,000 5G-ready radio sites and 4,000 small cells in Vodafone Idea’s network in India’s capital Delhi.

According to the report, Indian carriers have been reducing their dependence on Huawei due to alleged security concerns. The Indian government has not officially banned Huawei but the Chinese vendor was not included in the list of approved suppliers for carrying out 5G trials in India.

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