There has been a massive divide in the opinions of telecom operators in the industry about whether or not the 5G spectrum auction should be held in 2019. A lot of the telecom operators are against it and are asking for a reduction in prices recommended by the telecom regulator, whereas some players in the industry deem the prices and the early auction as an appropriate step. A new ET Telecom report has highlighted that while Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel stand together against the early auction and have called the prices of the 5G spectrum as "exorbitant", Mukesh Ambani led telecom operator, Reliance Jio is backing the sale of 5G spectrum in 2019 at Trai recommended rates.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Ask for Delayed 5G Spectrum Auction
An Airtel spokesperson has said about this new development, "In any auction in the future, Bharti Airtel will participate to pick up small chunks of 4G spectrum in certain circles. On 5G, it will depend on the pricing, which we hope will be set at prices which encourage more investments in networks rather than spectrum purchase."
The Airtel official also added, "Spectrum is the lifeline of the mobile industry. Bharti Airtel has, through participation in various auctions and through merger and acquisitions, created one of the largest pools of spectrum in the industry."
Airtel's CEO, Gopal Vittal has also called out against the prices saying that they are too high given that the 5G ecosystem is in nascent stages. On the other hand, Reliance Jio has contrasting views about the government's decision of holding the 5G spectrum in 2019 only. A person close to Reliance Jio remarked about this, "The prices have been decided after much deliberation by the sector regulator, and if a telco needs the spectrum, then it will bid for it during the auction irrespective of the costs."
New Telecom Minister Announces Spectrum Sale in 2019
The clash of opinions over the expected date of 5G spectrum auction and also on the prices began when last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) proposed a sale of 20 MHz blocks of 5G spectrum in the 3,300-3,600 MHz band at a price of Rs 492 crore per unit. There was also the 700 MHz band pending for sale which had gone unsold last year due to high prices, for which Trai had suggested a 43% cut, to Rs 6,568 crore a unit. Now even with telecom operators pressing the regulator to lower the recommended prices, the Trai has backed its number by saying that it has arrived on them through extensive consultations.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have said that 5G spectrum auctions should only be held later next year and at lower prices than what Trai has suggested. On Monday, new telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that the auction of 5G spectrum airwaves would be held later this year.