Reliance Jio, the largest telecom operator in India, has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to soon hold the next round of spectrum auctions. According to the Mint, Reliance Jio in a letter to the DoT, highlighted that the delay in spectrum auction will result in a huge loss to the government revenues. Crucially, the operator also said that the holding of the spectrum auctions at the earliest will result in the enhancement of 4G services. Mint highlighted that the copies of the letter have also been sent to Ravi Shankar Prasad, the communications minister and PK Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister.
DoT Plans to Auction 8300 MHz of Spectrum
It has to be noted that the DoT plans to hold an auction for 8300 MHz of spectrum at a reserve price of Rs 5.23 trillion. Mint highlighted that the largest telecom operator wants spectrum auction to be held in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2500 MHz bands. However, Reliance Jio is said to have not sought the auction in the 3300 MHz to 3600 MHz bands meant for 5G services.
According to the recent Telecom Subscription Data for June as released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), Reliance Jio added over 4.4 million users. The Trai data highlights that the incumbent operators including Bharti Airtel, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Vodafone Idea lost over 1.1 million, 1.7 million and 4.8 million users respectively.
The incumbent operators specifically Airtel and Vodafone Idea are also dealing with the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) payment issues. The Supreme Court earlier in the month had allowed the telecom operators a 10-year time period for the payment of dues.
Reliance Jio Riding on Reliance Communication Airwaves
The Indian government between 2012 to 2016 held the spectrum auctions each year. However, the government has not conducted an auction in the past four years. Reliance Jio has been using the airwaves from Reliance Communications particularly in the 800 MHz under a sharing agreement to enhance its 4G coverage across India. Reliance Communications airwaves in 18 circles are reported to expire during the months of July to August, 2021.
“The auction process for this spectrum should have been started 18 months before the expiry,” Reliance Jio said in the letter, as per the Mint report. "We reiterate that the inexplicable delay of four years in auction of spectrum since 2016 has created a situation of dire spectrum scarcity which is impacting the quality of experience and growth of services."