The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) which represents all the big telcos of the country has remarked that the government should hold the auction for 5G spectrum in the second half of 2019. They cited a reason for this demand saying that the buffer time period would allow them to have more insight on how the market is going to evolve in the coming months. Not only this, the telcos would use this time frame for exploring possible revenue sources for the fifth-generation technology. Director General, Rajan Matthews said that the pricing of the spectrum in the upcoming auction would be a "critical component of the success of these auctions.”
It is notable that the premium 700 Mhz spectrum which will be put up for auction again, was also up for selling in the 2016 auctions. However, because of the exorbitant price, the spectrum could not find any bidders. Matthews further added that the growing financial unrest in the industry has added to the woes of the telcos.
Telecom Secretary, Aruna Sundarajan who heads the Telecom Commission, the highest authority in the telecom sector in India, also gave her word saying that India wants to be ahead of other developed nations in the rollout of the 5G technology. The delay would result in a scenario which would be similar to what happened in the case of 3G and 4G rollout. This mission is of strategic importance for the government.
The Department of Telecommunications is also keen on fastening the process of auction. To speed up the roll out of the fifth-generation technology and to study its applications and technicalities, the department has setup up a panel comprising secretaries of the Telecom Department, IT and Electronics Ministry and Science and Technology Department. As much as 6,000 Mhz of the spectrum has been deemed available for the rollout of 5G.
The government is highly aware about the applications of the new technology and is gearing up for massive deployment of 5G in sectors like the Internet of Things (IoT), healthcare, education and e-governance.
Matthews said to PTI as “Most critical things is emerging use cases...where are the best revenue opportunities...Also what is government's national policy on 5G...e-health, e-commerce, e-governance, e-education...because the government will be pushing to ensure that those are the services that will be necessary...these will be the most important aspects that the industry will watch out for.”
Although, Matthews admitted to the wider application and the fantastic opportunities which the 5G technology would present he also showed concerns about the present financial condition of the industry. With a total debt of Rs 7.7 lakh crores, the industry has shown a serious decline in profits and revenue because of cutthroat competition between the carriers.
He added to his statement “You also have to address the financial health of the industry to be able to allow operators to afford investments in the spectrum. Unless you allow the industry to get back on their feet...who is going to lend to the industry for spectrum?”
Now it remains to be seen how the telcos gear up for the adoption of 5G technology. The news of the upcoming auctions, point towards the fact that the telcos would have to be prepared financially and technologically to inculcate the fifth-generation service into their existing infrastructure.