Expect Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations around pricing of 5G airwaves sometime in early April. TRAI secretary V Raghunandan has apparently told local press that the huge task will take another week or ten days.
It had been hoped that suggestions for the pricing of 5G airwaves and how much bandwidth should be auctioned would be published by the end of March, allowing auctions by May or June and initial rollouts as early as 15 August.
However, TRAI is right to say this is a big job, although the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sought the regulator's views on the applicable reserve price, band plan, block size, how much spectrum should be auctioned and associated conditions for the auction of spectrum last September.
Of course TRAI has also asked for input from stakeholders, which may have slowed the process down. In particular it has had to deal with what many operators see as the unnecessarily high suggested price of 5G spectrum. Two attempts to sell 700MHz spectrum (though not necessarily for 5G) have already failed on the grounds of price.
There’s also the question of how much spectrum is available and who will get it; there have, for example, been competing demands and submissions to TRAI from mobile and satellite operators.
According to India’s Economic Times news source, TRAI has also been working on increasing the availability of spectrum in the 800MHz and 900MHz spectrum bands for the forthcoming auction at the request of the DoT.
While a delay until April may seem reasonable there remains a question mark over whether most industry stakeholders will be happy with TRAI’s recommendations – and in particular pricing – and what will happen if they are not.