DoT likely to host next round of spectrum auction post August

“With elections underway in May, next auctions are likely to happen only after August or September,” a senior DoT official told ET.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to hold the next round of spectrum auction only after August this year, and may use the new pricing methodology, which the regulator is working on, to lower prices of all bands of airwaves even in the upcoming sale.

“With elections underway in May, next auctions are likely to happen only after August or September,” a senior DoT official told ET. “Nobody’s in dire need for airwaves at this point of time, so there’s no sense of urgency. With general elections barely months away, the vote on account this week will effectively push auctions till the next government is formed and policy goals are set,” the official said, explaining the expected timing.

While Reliance Jio Infocomm is the only player that has indicated its willingness to buy airwaves at the current price recommended by the regulator and has backed an early sale, Bharti Airtel has sought a cut in the price of certain sub-Ghz bands and a no auction of 5G band till later this year. Vodafone Idea doesn’t want auctions this year at all.

According to sources, the department is considering revising the price of airwaves in all bands -- 4G and 5G — once the telecom regulator suggests a new pricing formula, which is currently in the works.

As reported earlier by ET, the telecom regulator is set to begin a consultation process to change the methodology to compute the starting price of airwaves, aimed at lowering the starting price of airwaves during auctions.

“As it is, auctions are a while away. By then, let us see what formula the regulator arrives at and then on examining it, we could even use it for revising the prices in the current recommendations which the regulator has made to us last year,” the official said.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said the new methodology to arrive at starting prices will not affect the base prices it had already recommended for the next sale of 4G and 5G bandwidth.

Last August, Trai recommended auction of airwaves across seven 4G bands, besides 5G spectrum. It slashed the base price of the premium 700 MHz band by 43% to Rs 6,568 crore a unit and set Rs 492 crore per unit as the minimum rate for 5G, which will make its debut. ET had reported earlier on how DoT felt the prices of airwaves were indeed high and needed a revision. Meanwhile, it had sought explanation from the regulator on how it had arrived at the prices. Trai, though, had refused to give any explanation and instead mooted a new paper to discuss a new methodology to arrive at starting prices.




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