India, world’s second largest telecom market, plans mega 5G auctions

May 28, 2022
India being world’s second largest telecommunications market is planning to roll out 5G mobile services within 2022-23.
India being world’s second largest telecommunications market is planning to roll out 5G mobile services within 2022-23.

NEW DELHI — India being world’s second largest telecommunications market is planning to roll out 5G mobile services within 2022-23 by telecom providers and the groundwork for spectrum auctions in 2022 has already started.

According to Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in a report by The Hindu newspaper, the 5G spectrum auctions in India are on track as planned, despite telecom operators and their lobbying groups raising concerns about high prices.

“The spectrum pricing recommended by TRAI is too high. Industry recommended a 90% lower price, and to see only about a 35-40% reduction recommended in prices, therefore is deeply disappointing,” industry group Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had said reacting to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) 5G spectrum auction recommendations.

Vaishnaw believes 5G service rollout will happen in August or September, which seems a little optimistic given that telecom companies in the past have said they would need six months from the spectrum auction to roll out their 5G services.

That being said, given that telcos have been given extended time — most recently, up to May 2022 — to test their 5G networks, it could be possible for them to fast-track the commercial rollout of 5G. Or, like Jio has done in the past with beta testing its 4G-only network, telcos could roll out 5G services in a limited manner before a wider commercial rollout.

That the government is keen to roll out the 5G services is evident with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during her budget speech, announcing that 5G mobile services would be rolled out within 2022-23.

“All leading telecom companies, including Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vi are testing their 5G networks under different trials. The government is also discussing with telcos and other stakeholders on the spectrum auctions that will be undertaken this year,” she had said.

This has opened up opportunity for collaboration with like-minded partners including Australia and Japan. India had earlier side-stepped intense efforts by China to explore introducing 5G as that would have compromised India’s privacy and security.

In the recent communications, telecom sector watchdog TRAI detailed its plan to put on auction around Rs.7.5 lakh crore worth airwaves across multiple bands.

The TRAI in this mega auction has planned to put on auction spectrum bands All available spectrum in existing bands viz. 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz and new spectrum bands viz. 600 MHz, 3300-3670 MHz and 24.25-28.5 GHz, be put to auction.

At present, India has 1.16 billion telecom subscribers including mobile and fixed telephones. The overall teledensity in India was 85.19 percent at the end of January 2022.

According to PwC, the development of 5G technology has prompted much anticipation among the tech community and the masses. 5G has been dubbed as the next revolution in cellular technology, which will bring the people of this world even closer.

The technology marks an evolutionary jump in terms of connectivity speeds, utility and business use cases.

The new technology has advantages of massive connectivity, low power consumption and boasts of download speeds and capacity that can enable autonomous vehicles, drones, remotely assisted surgeries and traffic control.

As part of the roll out, India is aiming to increase its fiber backbone to 2.5 million kilometers (1.6 million miles) by 2022 from 1.5 million kilometers right now.

In 2021, the global services market for 5G technology was estimated to be $83.24 billion. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23% to reach $188 billion by the year 2025.

According to news reports, spectrum auctions will be conducted very soon, and the next- generation 5G services are expected to commence before the end of the year, Minister of State for Communications Devusinh Chauhan said in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the parliament).

Replying to a supplementary question during Question Hour, Chauhan also said that the four companies have been allotted spectrum for conducting trials and added that the trials are expected to be completed soon.

To provide flexibility to the telecom service providers (TSPs), block size of 10 MHz for 3300- 3670 MHz band and 50 MHz for 24.25-28.5 GHz band recommended. Spectrum to be assigned in a contiguous manner, the watchdog stated.

It said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) should carry out harmonization exercise in 800 MHz, 900 MH and 1800 MHz bands immediately after conducting the auction so that frequencies assigned to the TSPs are in contiguous manner.

The reserve price of spectrum allocation in case of 30 years should be equal to 1.5 times the reserve price of spectrum allocation for 20 years for the respective band.

According to India Brand Equity Foundation, India's 5G subscriptions to have 350 million by 2026. accounting for 27 percent of all mobile subscriptions. “For the long-term growth and sustainability of the telecom sector, infusing liquidity and encouraging investment, the Telecom Service Providers should be allowed easy payment options including part payment with flexibility of moratorium,” the TRAI stated.

Unlike existing coverage-based rollout obligations, considering deployment of 5G network in 3300-3670 MHz and 24.25-28.5 GHz bands, easy network deployment-based roll-out conditions have been recommended for these bands.

According to India Brand Equity Foundation, over the next five years, rise in mobile-phone penetration and decline in data costs will add 500 million new Internet users in India, creating opportunities for new businesses.

By 2025, India will need ~22 million skilled workers in 5G-centric technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and cloud computing.

With daily increasing subscriber base, there have been a lot of investment and development in the sector. FDI inflow into the telecom sector during April 2000 – March 2021 totaled $37.97 billion according to the data released by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

For domestic consumption and export, Ericsson will start manufacturing 5G radio products in India. By 2025, India will need ~22 million skilled workers in 5G-centric technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and cloud computing.

To take it beyond 5G, the DoT has developed a sixth generation (6G) innovation group. — Agencies

May 28, 2022
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