India Plans 5G Spectrum Auction By July End, 72 GHz Airwaves On Offer

A total of 72,097.85 MHz of airwaves will be up for grabs in the 5G spectrum auction, which will be conducted by July-end.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Photo: Unsplash)</p></div>
(Photo: Unsplash)

India will commence its 5G spectrum auction on July 26, with over 72 GHz in airwaves on offer. The government has also approved setting up of captive fifth-generation networks by big tech firms.

According to soures, the Union Cabinet has approved 5G auctions at the reserve prices recommended by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The regulator had suggested 39% reduction in the reserve or floor price.

While 5G spectrum in nine frequency bands will be auctioned to telecom operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, the Notice Inviting Applications -- bid-related document issued by the Department of Telecommunications -- said big tech firms for the time-being will be allowed to take on lease 5G spectrum for their captive non-public networks.

The Notice Inviting Offer said direct allocation to big tech companies will follow a demand study and TRAI's recommendation on aspects such as pricing and modalities of such allocation. The government will from time to time publish required provisions and guidelines and licensing terms and conditions for enabling the setting up of Captive Non-Public Network.

According to the document, the 5G spectrum auction will start on July 26. Among other key dates to watch-out for are:

  • June 20: Pre-Bid Conference

  • July 8: Deadline for submission of bids

  • July 18: Pre-qualification of bidders

  • July 22-23: Mock auctions

A total of 72,097.85 MHz of spectrum with a validity period of 20 years will be put to auction. These include airwaves in various Low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), Mid (3300 MHz) and High (26 GHz) frequency bands. Overall, the payment terms have been eased for bidders in the upcoming auction.

"For the first time ever, there is no mandatory requirement to make an upfront payment by the successful bidders," the cabinet note stated. "Payments for spectrum can be made in 20 equal annual instalments to be paid in advance at the beginning of each year." This is expected to ease cash flow requirements and lower cost of doing business in this sector.

The bidders will be given an option to surrender the spectrum after 10 years with no future liabilities with respect to balance instalments. No spectrum usage charges will be charged for spectrum acquired in this auction.

"The availability of sufficient backhaul spectrum is also necessary to enable the rollout of 5G services. To meet the backhaul demand, the cabinet has decided to provisionally allot two carriers of 250 MHz each in E-band to the telecom service providers," the official statement read.

The Union Cabinet has also decided to double the number of traditional Microwave backhaul carriers in the existing frequency bands of 13, 15, 18 and 21 GHz bands, the release informed.

5G will usher in ultra high speed internet and spawn new-age services and business models, and the mega-auctions will pave the way for roll out of next-generation services by telcos, in 2022-23.