India was tipped to delay a planned 5G spectrum auction until 2021 due to the poor financial health of the industry and worries the reserve price is too high to attract interest, though a related 4G auction was still expected to be held this year, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials said it was unclear how much 5G spectrum would be made available, which was slowing the process, the newspaper stated, adding another obstacle is uncertainly over whether the government would allow operators to deploy equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

The country faced continued US pressure to ban Huawei’s kit due to fears over back-doors which could allow the Chinese government to spy on users. In June 2019, the Indian government established a committee to review the vendor’s network security, which is yet to make a final ruling.

A recent Finance Ministry recommendation suggested reducing the 5G reserve price of INR4.9 billion ($65.1 million) per MHz to make it more affordable.

ET said the Digital Communications Commission, the DoT’s highest decision-making body, discussed the auctions on 11 May. Any 5G delay would need Cabinet approval.

No timetable was set for the 4G auction, with spectrum across seven bands to be offered.

The sales were originally scheduled to be held in 2019, but pushed to 2020 as the DoT had not finalised the pricing or amount of spectrum to be allocated.

Vodafone Idea had urged the DoT to delay the sale, arguing demand for new spectrum will grow only once the 5G ecosystem is in place, while Bharti Airtel executives said they would sit out any early auction due to a lack of clarity over business cases.