India unveiled plans to hold an auction of 5G-enabling spectrum by the end of July and indicated some frequencies will be reserved to enable enterprises to establish private mobile networks.

In a statement, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi announced it had approved a proposal of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to auction a total of 72GHz of spectrum spanning frequencies from 600MHz to 26GHz, with a validity period of 20 years.

Reuters reported India’s government agreed to set a reserve price of INR3.2 billion ($40.6 million).

However, the plan to set aside spectrum for what the government termed “captive non-public networks” has proved controversial and somewhat divisive.

It is opposed by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents major operators including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, but the Broadband India Forum (BFI), which speaks on behalf of tech companies including Amazon, Google and Meta Platforms, supports the plan.

In a tweet, the COAI wrote allocating spectrum to industry verticals for private networks “isn’t justified as licensed access service providers are fully capable of providing all customised solutions”.

The cabinet explained it decided to enable private networks to support “a new wave” of industrial applications in sectors such as automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, and more.

Those interested in participating in the auction are invited to submit their applications by 8 July with the process due to start on 26 July.