DoT considering two spectrum bids in 2021, may include 5G in second half

The 5G auctions were envisaged after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power in 2019.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is considering holding two spectrum auctions in 2021, starting with the sale of 4G airwave licences, which are due to expire next year.

It is learnt that the 5G auctions, which were earlier kept out of the process, may also be tendered in the latter part of 2021, according to internal discussions at DoT.

According to an official in the know, “There is no hurry to conduct the 5G auctions since the ecosystem is not in place and companies are not willing to put in money. The situation is likely to improve in a year’s time. By the end of next year, we may be a in a position to even offer 5G spectrum.”

The licences for some of the 4G spectrum held by telecom companies (telcos) expire next year. Therefore, the government may conduct the auctions to enable telcos to buy that spectrum.

“As far as 5G airwaves are concerned, segregating the two auctions will make it easier for the government to conduct the tendering process,” said the official quoted earlier.
The 5G auctions were envisaged after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power in 2019. The process had started in August 2019, when the Union government had floated a tender inviting bids for the selection of agencies to conduct the auctions across all spectrum bands, including the coveted 5G band.

In May 2020, MSTC was the auctioneer. The auctioneer is responsible for designing and developing the software for e-auction of spectrum.

The public sector unit had conducted the coal auctions in 2015, after the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of coal mines in September 2014.

The government did not auction any spectrum in 2017-18 and 2018-19. The proposed auction is also expected to be the country's biggest since the government plans to offer 8,093 megahertz (MHz) of airwaves at a base price of over Rs 5.7 trillion.

The last spectrum auction in October 2016 saw only 40 per cent of the spectrum offered being sold. In that auction, the government had mopped up Rs 65,789 crore from the sale of just 965 MHz.

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