Is the Indian spectrum auction finally on the way?

Is the Indian spectrum auction finally on the way?

With 5G spectrum affordability very much a talking point recently, it seems appropriate to highlight news that the much-delayed mass spectrum auction may finally be on its way in India.

According to local press reports India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will launch the mass spectrum auction by the end of the year. If, as has been indicated, DoT’s Digital Communications Commission announces the recommended pricing for the airwaves later this month the auction should be complete by the end of November. The prize is an inviting one: over 8,000MHz of airwaves for sale across the 700MHz, 800MHz, 1800MHz, 2300MHz, 2500MHz and 3400MHz-3600MHz ranges. This will, of course, include 4G and 5G-compatible airwaves.

This may or may not be a welcome development for India’s operators. Certainly there are worries about the prices likely to be posted for the spectrum and, given that end users have been enjoying some very cheap data as price wars rage on, one wonders whether the eventual participants can guarantee the return on investment that will make buying the spectrum worthwhile. The government seems relatively unconcerned, apparently accepting the possibility that some bands may fail to attract bids, but a spokesperson insists that there will be demand for the spectrum.

However, the GSMA’s recent warnings about the negative effects of expensive 4G and 5G spectrum on rollout and services will surely be referenced by commentators if the Indian government succumbs to the temptation to overprice what is, after all, a valuable asset.

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