Boosting India’s 5G Revolution: DoT Plans Fresh Auction of Spectrum by February

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India is gearing up to conduct the next round of 5G spectrum auctions, slated for January-February 2024. This upcoming auction is expected to be significant, although the intensity of bidding might not reach the levels seen in previous auctions.

Key Points of the Upcoming 5G Auction:

  1. Auction Scale and Spectrum Bands: The auction is set to feature a wide range of spectrum bands, including those above 37 GHz, known as the millimetre wave (mmWave) band. It is reported that airwaves in 11 bands, ranging from 600 MHz to above 37 GHz, will be up for sale, with an emphasis on the mid-band spectrum in the range of 1 GHz to 6 GHz and the millimetre wave band spectrum in the range of 37 GHz and 42 GHz. This spectrum is considered attractive for 5G as it aligns with global standards and facilitates the speedy development of the 5G ecosystem, including handsets and equipment.
  2. Participation and Investment Expectations: The auction may not witness the same level of investment as previous ones. Major telecom players like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, having already acquired substantial airwaves in the last auction, are expected to be more selective in their bids. Airtel, for instance, is likely to focus on renewing spectrum in circles where its licenses are expiring. Reliance Jio, possessing a comprehensive spectrum portfolio, including the coveted 700 MHz band, might not invest as heavily as before. Vodafone Idea, facing financial constraints, is anticipated to be a muted participant.
  3. Reserve Price and Revenue Projections: The reserve price for most spectrum bands is expected to remain the same as in the 2022 auction, as suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). However, the prices for newer bands, such as those above 37 GHz, are still to be determined. Given the current market dynamics and the telecom operators’ existing spectrum holdings, the auction is projected to generate less revenue for the government compared to the 2022 auction, which brought in a record Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
  4. Government’s Strategy and Future Plans: The DoT is in the process of finalizing spectrum availability and will soon seek recommendations from TRAI for pricing and other modalities. The government’s approach reflects a keen interest in keeping up with global 5G trends and preparing for the advent of 6G technology.

The upcoming auction marks a critical step in India’s ongoing journey towards full-fledged 5G deployment, promising to enhance connectivity and foster technological advancements across various sectors. However, the more conservative investment strategy by key telecom players and the unchanged reserve prices indicate a more strategic and measured approach to spectrum acquisition this time around.



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