No direct 5G spectrum allocation to corporates: States Ministry Official 

The Communications Ministry has ruled out any direct spectrum allocations to corporates for private 5G networks, with a top government official saying the latter will need to lease capacities from telcos for now. The official added that enterprises can participate in the upcoming 5G airwave auctions if they want. 

The communications ministry has also left it to the Cabinet to make the final calls on the reserve prices of the 5G spectrum and on whether such airwaves would be auctioned for a period of 20 or 30 years. Telcos have been desperately calling for 5G base prices to be lowered by 90% against the around 39% average reduction on the 2018 prices that the regulator has recommended. The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision-making body of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has already accepted the regulator’s prices, which need to be now cleared by the Cabinet. 

“Any enterprise wanting to connect to a network will have to connect with a main (telco) network… creating a separate category (read: captive wireless private networks) will require a lot more consideration,” the official said.

Prashant Singhal, global TMT emerging markets leader at EY, had recently stated that the TRAI-suggested reserve prices of 5G airwaves remained very high compared to all global benchmarks, and accordingly, expected bidding for 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.67 GHz to be both limited and lukewarm, and confined to just the metros and Tier-A markets where 5G adoption levels would be faster. 

Earlier, India’s top telcos had slammed TRAI’s recommendation that the 5G spectrum for private enterprise networks is assigned administratively on demand through a publicized online portal-based process, and called on the regulator to scrap the move. They had warned that such a proposal if accepted by the government, could potentially rob telcos of their future 5G enterprise business revenues – estimated at around 40% of overall 5G business revenues – and destroy the 5G business case in India. 

Subsequently, in its response this week to DoT’s back-reference, TRAI had suggested that private enterprises have the option to lease spectrum from the telcos.