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India to hold 5G spectrum auction in July

The Indian government has finally approved the 5G spectrum auction, set to start on July 26 according to a government press release.

This means the country is finally likely to see the launch of commercial 5G services by the end of 2022. However, it has been reported a token launch may happen in August during Independence Day celebrations.

The auction will see the three service providers, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, slug it out for 72GHz of airwaves on sale. The spectrum in low band (600MHz, 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz), mid-band (3300MHz) and high band (26GHz) will be auctioned and will be available for 20 years.

India is finally likely to see the launch of commercial 5G services by the end of 2022.
 (Source: robertharding/Alamy Stock Photo)
India is finally likely to see the launch of commercial 5G services by the end of 2022.
(Source: robertharding/Alamy Stock Photo)

"It is expected that the mid and high band spectrum will be utilized by telecom service providers to roll out of 5G technology-based services," said the press statement issued by the ministry. It doesn't mention how much the government aims to collect.

Rolling backhaul

The administration also announced that it has decided to "provisionally" allot two carriers of 250MHz each in E-Band to telecom service providers to allow them to address the backhaul problem.

"The cabinet also decided to double the number of traditional microwave backhaul carriers in the existing frequency bands of 13, 15, 18 and 21GHz bands," said the statement.

It also noted that the winners will pay for the spectrum in 20 equal annual installments, due at the beginning of each year.

"This is expected to significantly ease cash flow requirements and lower the cost of doing business in this sector. The bidders would be given an option to surrender the spectrum after 10 years with no future liabilities with respect to balance installments."

Barriers to entry

The high base price coupled with the availability of a good quantity of spectrum means there will not be aggressive bidding. Private service providers have raised concerns about cost many times over the past few years.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recently recommended a drop of 39% in reserve prices, but this still fell short of the telcos' expectations.


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Private 5G networks have also been a bone of contention between telcos and technology companies.

The press note says the cabinet has decided to "enable the development and setting up of private captive networks to spur a new wave of innovations in Industry 4.0 applications."

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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