Yet another 5G spectrum auction controversy has erupted in India. New rules that allow companies to set up private 5G networks will reduce demand in the upcoming C-band (3.3-3.6 GHz) spectrum auction, potential bidders say.
“Telcos fear access to 5G spectrum without auctions would allow tech companies to offer similar 5G enterprise services at a much lower cost and undermine their 5G business case,” the Economic Times of India reported.
In February, India’s finance minister announced a plan to auction off 5G spectrum in 2022, with the country’s three leading carriers – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea – as the likely bidders. But since then, carriers have balked at the reserve prices, saying they are too high.
The Economic Times of India reports that the country’s Department of Telecommunications plans to study direct spectrum assignments to enterprises, which could delay deployments of private 5G networks.
The reserve price for spectrum in the 5G auction has already been reduced by 39 percent by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, according to the Business Standard. The reserve bid for all of the frequencies would be $97.5 billion. This would accommodate the industry’s bidding ability for frequencies in the 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300-3670 MHz and 24.25-28.5 GHz bands.
The Indian government has been working to shore up the wireless sector. Earlier this year, it took a 35.8 percent stake in Vodafone Idea, becoming its largest shareholder, according to a report in the Economic Times of India. Last fall, the government deferred payments for spectrum purchased by MNOs for four years, the Indian Express reported. One carrier, Vodafone Idea, in particular, stands to benefit from the reprieve, which includes elimination of the spectrum usage charge for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions.
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor
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