India eases stance on spectrum fees - Mobile World Live

India eases stance on spectrum fees

14 OCT 2019

Indian authorities showed willingness to compromise on the price of spectrum ahead of the country’s first auction in three years, addressing a major complaint of cash-strapped operators in the country, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

Speaking at the India Mobile Congress, communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar explained the government is aware of operators’ concerns that the cost of spectrum is too high, but noted a procedural review around fees and the amount to be sold is ongoing.

He said an auction would take place by the close of the current financial year, which runs to end-March 2020, with precise details on the timing to be announced soon, ET reported.

The auction will be India’s first since October 2016 and was originally scheduled to take place by the end of the current calendar year. Government proposals could see up to 3,000MHz of spectrum offered across eight bands, two of which would be for 5G.

In August, ET reported the review would likely cause the timeline to slip into early calendar 2020.

Fees
Shankar’s comments came as Bharti Enterprises vice-chairman Rakesh Bharti Mittal levelled further criticism on the government’s pricing during the same industry event.

LiveMint reported the executive also highlighted planning permission for new mobile sites as an ongoing issue, urging regional authorities to streamline the process for 5G services in particular.

Operators are not alone in calling for India’s government to take action over the high cost of spectrum: in August the Confederation of Indian Industry reportedly warned a high reserve price on 5G bands would put further pressure on operators’ earnings and slow the overall growth of the sector.

A fierce price war in India has strained operators’ earnings potential since Reliance Jio entered the market in 2016, resulting in a wave of consolidation and exits. The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India recently released figures showing ARPU had begun to rebound, growing 6.43 per cent year-on-year to INR74.30 ($1.04) at end-June.

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