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Navy's reluctance to vacate spectrum may delay 5G auction

By Megha Manchanda
July 21, 2021 12:37 IST
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The Indian Navy is showing reluctance in vacating the spectrum from the 3.3 GHz-3.4 GHz band that it is using.

The Indian Navy has expressed reservations in vacating 100 Mhz of the spectrum, proposed to be sold in the tender expected next year, sources said.

This could delay the Centre’s plans to proceed with the 5G auctions in 2022.

 

A department of telecom (DoT) official said, “The Indian Navy is showing reluctance in vacating the spectrum from the 3.3 GHz-3.4 GHz band that it is using.

"Unless there is some traction with them on this issue, we can’t seek consultation from TRAI.”

The 3300 MHz-3600 MHz (or 3.3GHz-3.6GHz) will be auctioned for the first time in the proposed 5G auctions, likely next year.

This frequency is halfway between the existing WiFi bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) and is used by naval radar systems and for satellite ground communications.

The base price for the 5G spectrum is about Rs 3.63 trillion.

The DoT will ask the Telecom Regulatory Auth­ority of India (TRAI) for views on the price discovery of the 2600-2800 MHz band and the auctions will also include 3,300-3,600 MHz bands.

The recent round of auction — the shortest in a decade — saw Reliance Jio lapping up more than 50 per cent of airwaves on offer.

The company paid Rs 57,122.65 crore and 60 per cent of this amount was spent on buying the 800 Mhz band.

The entire spectrum offered by the government in the auctions was sold off at the base price.

Bharti Airtel bought Rs 18,698.75 crore worth of spectrum and bulk of its purchase were in the 2300 Mhz band.

Vod­a­fone Idea, too, spent Rs 574 crore.

Of the total available spectrum of 2308 Mhz, 855.60 Mhz was sold — 37 per cent of the spectrum by quantity and 19 per cent by value.

Nearly 65 per cent of the 800 Mhz spectrum on offer and 89 per cent of the airwaves offered in the 2300 Mhz band were old.

Both 2500 Mhz and 700 Mhz — which are premium spectrum — went unsold.

The industry had opposed the steep reserve price recommended by TRAI in certain bands.

In August 2018, the regulator came out with its recommendations on spectrum pricing, wherein it reduced the base price of frequencies that went unsold in the 2016 auction.

The reserve price for the premium 700 MHz spectrum, which went unsold in 2016, was reduced by more than 40 per cent to Rs 6,568 crore per MHz all-India from Rs 11,485 crore in 2016.

The band, however, went unsold in the recently concluded auctions as well. Trai recommended a base price of Rs 4,651 crore for paired spectrum in the 800 MHz band covering 19 circles, Rs 1,622 crore per MHz for the 900 MHz band covering seven circles, Rs 3,399 crore per MHz in the 2,100 MHz band covering 21 circles and Rs 821 crore per MHz in the 2,500 MHz band covering 12 circles.

It also suggested Rs 960 crore per MHz for unpaired spectrum in the 2,300 MHz band on a pan-Indian basis.

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

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Megha Manchanda in New Delhi
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