Soon after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government would auction telecom spectrum in 2022, telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have reignited their battle over the quantum of spectrum to put to 5G auction.
In a letter written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Airtel had proposed that the lower amount of airwaves should be put for the auction, between 3.43 GHz and 3.67 GHz. According to Airtel, the identified spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band is from this band, which is free of external interference. The provider has additionally told that the spectrum band 3.3 GHz to 3.43 GHz should be put on hold until others vacate it.
Meanwhile, Jio suggests that the complete range of airwaves identified should be made available for auction. According to Reliance Jio, a 5G standalone network offering high-speed and low latency services will not lure customers without a minimum of 100 MHz of the spectrum. The provider asks for the auction for the entire C-band, including 3.3 GHz and 3.67 GHz. For interference-free deployment, it suggested a rank-based allotment methodology.
Jio has pointed out that the global trend is to offer a minimum of 100 MHz to each service provider for 5G. With 3.3 GHz to 3.6 GHz (totally 370 MHz) on the block, there is a higher chance that each operator could get 100 MHz of the spectrum. The remaining can be kept aside for government-owned provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).
As per Airtel’s proposal, the minimum amount of spectrum receivable for each telecom operator will be capped at 60 MHz, which is insufficient for 5G. Such limited services would not facilitate intensive services like remote healthcare delivery or machine-to-machine communications.
5G Spectrum Reserve Price May be Reduced
The difference between Jio and Airtel also exists in terms of pricing. In 2018, TRAI had recommended the base price of 5G spectrum at $7 billion for pan-India airwaves in the 3.3 GHz and 3.67 GHz bands.
Jio suggests a 95% cut in the reserve price of the mid-band 5G spectrum (3.3 GHz and 3.67 GHz) from the rate recommended in 2018. This would amount to Rs 25 crore per unit. According to Airtel, 5G spectrum pricing should not be more than 10% of the prices recommended in 2018.
[With inputs from Economic Times and Business Standard]