5G recommendations to be finalised in 7-10 days: TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) most anticipated recommendations on 5G spectrum pricing and other modalities is expected to be finalised in about 7-10 days, according to a senior official at TRAI.

Earlier, TRAI Secretary, V Raghunandan, had explained that the spectrum reference given to the regulator spanned multiple bands and thereby involved detailed and exhaustive deliberations.

That’s why contrary to the telecom industry’s expectations the regulator’s recommendations would be out by March-end will take a tad bit longer.

“We are in the final stages, and will come out with the recommendations shortly in 7-10 days,” Raghunandan told PTI

TRAI’s views on spectrum pricing and other nuances are crucial as it will set the pace for the auctions and subsequent rollout of the fifth-generation mobile services that will usher in ultra-high-speed and spawn new-age services and business models.

The telecom regulator, in November-end last year, had released a detailed consultation paper to discuss threadbare the modalities for auction of spectrum across multiple bands, including pricing, quantum and other conditions — preparing the groundwork for upcoming 5G auctions.

TRAI’s comprehensive consultation paper runs into 207 pages and throws up 74 questions for industry-wide discussion, touching on crucial aspects like valuation and reserve price of 5G spectrum, quantum of the spectrum, block size, eligibility conditions for participation in the auction, roll-out obligations, spectrum cap, and surrender of the spectrum.

Norms will also be worked out for new frequencies such as 526-698 MHz and millimetre band that is 24.25 – 28.5 GHz, in addition to bands like 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, and 3300-3670 MHz.

The last round of spectrum auctions, held in March 2021, had raked-in winning bids of over Rs 77,800 crore for 855.6 MHz of spectrum. But, nearly 63 per cent of the total spectrum remained unsold.

As the country gears up for the mega auction, the industry players have been making an aggressive pitch for lowering spectrum pricing. Telecom operator Bharti Airtel’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Randeep Sekhon had recently made an emphatic appeal for “affordable” pricing of 5G radio waves, saying pricing “will play a very important role”.

It stems from the fact that if operators are made to buy very expensive spectrum, naturally their cash flows will be limited, they will have to pay. But if it is very reasonable, then it is very possible that the operator will bring the same money on increasing footprint faster.