India’s three largest mobile operators have called on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to slash the reserve price of 3.5GHz spectrum in its upcoming auctions.
The Economic Times (ET) reported that Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have all informed TRAI that they will only be able to finance their 5G deployments if the regulator substantially reduces its proposed spectrum reserve prices.
Bharti Airtel has proposed that the rate for mid-band spectrum should not exceed the rate proposed in 2018 by any more than 10%, while Reliance Jio has reportedly called for the base price for these frequencies to be slashed by 95%, with the rates for mmWave spectrum pegged at 0.01% of the mid-band price. ET reports that Vodafone Idea is aligned with this proposal.
Without even factoring in spectrum costs, Airtel has stated that its nationwide 5G deployment costs could reach INR500 billion ($6.8 billion). Breaking even on this investment would require a revenue increase of at least 20%, but Airtel noted that the precedent from 5G deployments in other markets suggests that aiming for even 10% could be ambitious. To ensure rural coverage while easing costs, Airtel proposed that TRAI provide operators with free 600MHz spectrum on the condition that they meet specific deployment goals.