Price of 5G spectrum in India 30-40% higher than global rates: COAI

A day after the government announced its intention to hold spectrum auctions in the current year, industry body COAI said that the recommended base price of 5G radiowaves is nearly 30-40 per cent higher than the rates in markets like South Korea and the US.

"Majority of our operators have indicated that 5G spectrum is far too prohibitively expensive and that their balance sheets can't afford this," Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) Director General, Rajan Mathews told reporters on the sidelines of 5G spectrum policy workshop organised by the industry body Tuesday.

On Monday, the Government made it clear that it plans to go ahead with spectrum auction, including for 5G radiowaves, in the current calender year. The new Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also set a deadline of 100 days for starting the 5G trials in the country.

"Majority of our operators believe that the spectrum for 5G is overpriced by at least 30-40 per cent compared to international standards and auction in other markets like South Korea and the US," Mathews said.

He further said that incentives should be build into the spectrum price, given that 5G services in the country will also aim to serve social goals.

On Monday evening, the newly-appointed Chairman of COAI and chief executive officer (CEO) of India's largest telecom operator Vodafone Idea, Balesh Sharma, had appealed to the government to ensure that 5G spectrum is made available to all players at "reasonable prices" and had pitched for lower levies and taxes to make the sector strong and sustainable.

"5G spectrum should be made available to all players at reasonable prices such that more investments are directed towards enhancing network capacity and capabilities...At the current level, the spectrum prices are exorbitant for sure," Sharma had said. He was speaking at a COAI panel discussion.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has already recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies, including those for 5G services, at an estimated total base price of Rs 4.9 trillion, but the financially stressed industry has contended that prices are unaffordable.

Last week, telecom operator Bharti Airtel rued that base price of spectrum recommended by the regulator is exorbitant and unaffordable, had urged the government to review the price of radiowaves to set the stage for an aggressive 5G play.

The Communications Ministry also plans to hold detailed discussion with the financially-stressed telecom industry on challenges faced by them and will work on addressing outstanding issues.

"The immediate need to make the telecom sector strong and sustainable and rationalising taxes and levies," said Sharma who was was named chairman of the COAI at industry body's Annual General Body meeting Monday.



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