Millennium Post

Trai defends spectrum pricing; says up to cos to decide if they want to buy

New Delhi: Telecom regulator Trai on Wednesday strongly defended its recommendations on pricing of spectrum, including 5G airwaves, saying its views had been finalised based on industry feedback, and it is for the individual stakeholders to decide whether to participate in the auction or not.

Trai's views assume significance as Bharti Airtel, earlier this month, made it clear that it will not buy 5G spectrum in the upcoming auction if its base price is fixed at Rs 492 crore per megahertz as recommended by the telecom regulator. Minister of State for telecom and IT Sanjay Dhotre had informed Rajya Sabha last week that a Draft Cabinet Note has been prepared for the auction of the spectrum, and that the document is under consideration within the Department. "I don't react on decisions that individual companies take. Trai has recommended the reserve pricing after taking into account the feedback and comments from various stakeholders and has given that to the government.

"The government has also apparently accepted those reserve prices and it is for the government to decide on the timing of the auction," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman RS Sharma said. He was speaking on the sidelines of a joint workshop on `Digital Radio Vision for India' organised by Xperi Corporation and India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA).

"...of course while the government will decide the time of the auction, it is for the stakeholders to decide whether they want to participate in the auction or not. What comment can I give," Sharma said when asked about Airtel's recent statement that aired concerns around the high spectrum prices.

The government is planning to hold next round of spectrum auction in April-May this year. The auction will also include radiowaves for 5G services. The Digital Communications Commission has approved reserve price recommended by Trai but it will be placed before the Cabinet for the final approval.

Sharma further said the regulator has not been approached by the Department of Telecom (DoT) yet for recommendations on new spectrum bands.

Asked if the regulator has received a reference for new 5G bands, Sharma said, "Not yet but as and when they approach us, we will be ready to carry out a consultation". The DoT plans to seek Trai's recommendations on pricing and other modalities for coveted 5G bands of 24.75-27.25 GHz, and late last year a senior government official had said that DoT wants sale of additional bands too in 2020. This new 5G chunk is separate from the Rs 5.22 lakh crore spectrum sale plan approved by the Digital Communications Commission on December 20, under which 8,300 MHz of airwaves across 22 circles are set to be put on block in March-April timeframe.

Trai also urged the government to come out with a detailed policy framework for digital radio broadcasting, an area where the regulator had already given its recommendations, and said it is willing to offer further policy inputs on the issue, if needed. The policy on digital radio broadcasting should also be supplemented by a comprehensive road map for the roll-out of these services in a time-bound manner, Sharma said. "In order to bring all stakeholders, radio broadcasters, transmission equipment manufactures and digital receiver manufacturers on one platform and encourage them to work collectively for developing the ecosystem for digital radio broadcasting, the government should come out with a detailed policy framework for digital radio broadcasting in India," he said.

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