India’s government announced plans to auction off about 3,000 MHz of spectrum across nine frequency bands, potentially its largest auction ever, but the country’s mobile operators are again pushing for a delay until the debt – laden industry completes a current wave of consolidation.
The telecom ministry asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( TRAI ) to recommend reserve prices for spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz , 900 MHz , 1 . 8 GHz, 2 . 1 GHz, 2 . 3 GHz, 2 . 5 GHz, 3 . 3 GHz to 3 . 4 GHz , and 3 . 4 GHz to 3 . 6 GHz bands , The Economic Times (ET) reported . Spectrum above 3 GHz will be offered for the first time . A date for the auction was not set .
Director- General at Cellular Operators Association of India , Rajan Mathews, said the government “ must not rush into any spectrum auction this year ” and auctions must be initiated “only once all consolidation has been announced and locked down ” , ET reported .
Following the release of a consultation paper by TRAI on auctioning spectrum in seven bands in 2017 , market leader Bharti Airtel , Idea Cellular and others argued the industry isn’ t ready for another auction due to operators’ high debt levels and an ongoing price war kicked off by the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016 . Operators have repeatedly pushed for the auctions to be delayed until late 2018 or early 2019 .
Operators also want the auction of 5 G spectrum put off until 2019 or 2020 to give time for a device ecosystem to mature . The country’ s last spectrum auction , held in October 2016, raised $ 9 . 8 billion but 60 per cent of frequencies were left on the shelf .
The strongest interest was in the 1 . 8 GHz and 2 . 3 GHz 4 G bands in the service regions covering the major cities . But there was no interest in the highly efficient 700 MHz and 900 MHz bands due to the high reserve prices . The government had hoped the 700 MHz band alone would bring in an estimated INR4 trillion ( $ 62. 2 billion ), but the band went unsold.
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