Bharti Airtel Chief Technology Officer Randeep Sekhon has made a strong call for affordable 5G spectrum pricing. 5G will have mass appeal and will not be confined to a niche or high-end segment as more and more cheaper devices become available in a market that is preparing for the next generation of services. While 5G will open up immersive entertainment, industrial use cases, unlock new avenues in education and other fields, its greatest benefit will be super-fast mobile connectivity.
“Spectrum pricing will play a very important role. If operators have to buy very expensive spectrum, naturally their cash flow will be limited, they will have to pay. But, if it is very reasonable, it is very possible that the operator brings in the same money by increasing the footprint faster,” he said.
Previously, Ravinder Takkar, CEO of Vodafone Idea, and Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, highlighted the need for Trai and the telecom department to secure easier payment terms for 5G spectrum in the upcoming sale in order to alleviate the financial stress of telecommunications operators.
India’s major telecom operators – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea – in their recent submissions had urged the regulator to cut the starting price of 5G waves in the midband and 700Mhz bands by up to 95% and set low starting prices for new frequencies to be offered for sale. It was critical for operators to get the financial headroom to invest the big money in capital-intensive 5G mobile broadband networks.
The government has reserved a mix of mid-band radio waves in the 3.3-3.67 Ghz range, millimeter wave (26/28 Ghz) and key sub-Ghz bands such as 600 Mhz and 700 Mhz for 5G services.
A parliamentary panel has also raised concerns over the delayed launch of 5G services in India and also called on the regulator and the government to reduce the starting price of 5G waves in the upcoming sale.
The panel observed that its high-time 5G services are being rolled out in India in some specific use cases and called on the telecom department to review all its 5G-related policies so that the country is not left behind in the 5G race. Current 5G spectrum pricing is exorbitant compared to other countries and as a result has prompted a price review.
Telecoms regulator Trai is expected to issue its final opinion within the next 10 days. The government plans to conduct the spectrum auction by May-June to facilitate the deployment of next-generation wireless broadband networks by August 15 this year.
On the other hand, satellite players opposed the auctioning of high-frequency bands for 5G mobile services and asked the government to follow the international practice of allocating radio waves to satellite companies on an administrative basis.
Allocating more spectrum in 5G auctions will deprive Indian citizens of satellite broadband services, resulting in loss of GDP. It will also result in a loss of GDP of up to $184.6 billion. Satellite players claim that satellite companies use the same spectrum on a shared basis and that the auction will only give ownership rights to one company.
Auctioning of airwaves has traditionally been used to manage excess demand in land mobile services, and auctioning of shared spectrum would create hurdles as the government should be mindful of investments in the sector.
Auctions have been used to manage excess demand in terrestrial wireless, and through this means mobile network operators buy rights for exclusive spectrum use, the Satcom association said. Auctioning shared spectrum would create both technical and legal difficulties.
Finally, India’s native 4G mobile network – which will be launched by BSNL has been prepared at the earliest time and will be rolled out soon.
The locally developed 4G network to be deployed by the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) would be economical and also overcome network security fears such as hidden backdoors in telecom equipment.