18 Nov 2017
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TRAI starts process for next airwaves auction

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has started the process for conducting the next round of spectrum auction in nine bands. This includes bands for 5G services and the coveted 700 MHz that went unsold in the last auction.

TRAI has sought opinion on when the next round of auction should be held and what should be the pricing and the quantum of spectrum to be sold. TRAI has also sought carriers’ views on whether it should be done in a “phased manner”.

“The government is planning to auction the right to use 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 in the next auction to be held in 2017,” TRAI said in the consultation paper.

The new sale could be on 60% of unsold airwaves from the last October auctions and also 275 units of new spectrum in bands identified for 5G services.

In April, the department of telecommunications (DoT) had requested TRAI to make recommendations for the reserve price and the quantum of air waves to be sold in 2017.

However, TRAI said the carriers must be consulted as 60% of air waves remained unsold in last October’s auction and there were concerns about the financial health of the telecom industry.

“The DoT in one of its communications has indicated that about Rs 3.08 lakh crore is due over the next 11 years on account of deferred payment plans opted by telecom service providers for the purchase of spectrum rights in the recent auctions,” TRAI said in the consultation paper. The telecom industry owed Rs 4.60 lakh crore to various financial institutions and banks, the sector regulator added.

The government is planning to auction spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands in the next auction. The 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz bands are also proposed to be auctioned for the first time.

The last date for sending comments is 25 September. The deadline for counter-comments is 3 October.

The telecom industry, however, wants the auction to be pushed to early 2019.

In the previous auction, the government had put Rs 5.66 lakh-crore of airwaves on sale. However, only 965MHz out of a total of 2,354.55MHz spectrum was sold for only Rs 65,789 crore.