India’s operators are bracing themselves for yet another delay in the 5G spectrum auction process.
It appears that the pricing recommendations requested from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are unlikely to appear much before March. This means 5G auctions are likely to take place in July and not April-May, as the government had earlier announced.
The knock-on effect of this seems to be that 5G services, expected to begin in urban areas before a wider rollout, may not be available anywhere before 2023. Operators apparently expect it to take six months after the spectrum awards process ends before they start offering 5G services.
All relevant operators are currently running trials – which were themselves cited as a reason for 5G delays after India’s operators received a six-month 5G trial extension early in November.
TRAI has promised, says India’s Economic Times, that its officials are working at a “record pace” on the spectrum pricing recommendations.
TRAI is currently waiting for stakeholder comment as part of the process of setting starting prices for the 10 spectrum bands likely to be offering 5G services. A consultation paper was published in November. TRAI wants comments from stakeholders by 28 December, and counter-comments by 11 January 2022.
This will be a delicate process for TRAI as it has to factor in the Indian government’s recent reform decisions with regard to future spectrum auctions. However, it also has to bear in mind that, more than once, notably in 700MHz auctions, high pricing has deterred operators from investing in spectrum.