The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended releasing more than 8,500MHz of spectrum across nine bands, including the 3.6GHz 5G frequency, for the country’s next auction.
TRAI didn’t suggest a date for the sale, which could generate as much as INR5 trillion ($73 billion) if all available lots are sold at the reserve price, The Economic Times (ET) said.
The agency called for the 5G spectrum to be sold at INR4.92 billion per MHz in 20MHz blocks and recommended a 100MHz cap on the band per bidder. It said the country’s revised spectrum limits (an overall cap of 35 per cent and a 50 per cent cap on the combined spectrum holding in sub-1GHz bands) should be extended to the 3.6GHz band.
To attract interest and avoid a repeat of a spectrum auction in October 2016, when 60 per cent of the available airwaves went unsold, TRAI reduced the reserve prices of most of the bands. It slashed the base price of 700MHz spectrum by 43 per cent to INR65.7 billion per MHz, ET reported. In 2016 there were no bidders for the 700MHz band due to a high reserve price.
Despite the price cuts, analysts say the 5G and 700MHz base prices remain high by international standards and expect interest in the bands to be weak.
The country’s mobile operators are in the midst of a fierce price war following the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016, with the top three players burdened by heavy debt and declining profitability.
TRAI’s recommendations need to be approved by the Department of Telecommunications before the cabinet gives the final green light.