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Broadband India Forum seeks lower reserve prices for 5G spectrum auction

Industry body says Indian reserve prices are 4X international ones; 40% of spectrum on offer last time went unsold due to higher prices

Sohini Das & Romita Majumdar  |  Mumbai 

Photo: Shutterstock

Echoing the telecom industry's concerns, the broadband industry body on Wednesday said that the reserve prices for the upcoming auctions need to be lowered to ensure a faster roll out of mobile internet services.

Speaking on the sidelines of the India 2019 summit, T V Ramachandran, president for Broadband India Forum (BIF), said that higher teledensity is directly proportional to economic growth.

While he was in favour of rolling out services in India soon, he felt that the reserve prices need to be lower in order to ensure higher offtake and better participation from telcos.

Incumbent telcos Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already expressed their concerns and displeasure over the base price for spectrum auctions and so have some industry associations.

BIF is engaging with the government on the spectrum auction related matter. It feels that at the current prices the auctions will not find many takers and spectrum would go unsold.

Data shows that Indian reserve prices are four times more than international ones, Ramachandran said.

He added that at higher prices almost 40 per cent of the spectrum on offer last time went unsold. Had that been used, it would have not only earned more revenue for the government, but would have also boosted the economy.

The base price for 5G auctions as recommended by Trai is Rs 492 crore per MHz. The Digital Communications Commission has asked Trai to review the recommendations.

Ramachandran added that with the pressure in telco networks rising and consequent high network congestion, it is imperative to invest in public WiFi services. "India needs almost 80 lakh (eight million) public wifis to offload the pressure on mobile networks whereas we currently have around 350,000of them largely pushed by BSNL and the government," he said.

However, there is a need to push for higher fiberisation as well to improve network quality. India has among the lowest fiberisation levels compared to large internet using economies and in order to be prepared for 5G rollout it is necessary to scale up optic fibre reach across the country.

First Published: Wed, June 26 2019. 19:50 IST