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GSMA Urges India’s Telecom Commission to Reduce Spectrum Auction Reserve Prices

The GSMA has expressed its belief that the Indian government should lower spectrum prices if it aims to meet its goals for mobile broadband penetration.

GSMA Chief Regulatory Officer John Giusti’s full statement on the issue reads: “The GSMA is concerned that, if the [Indian] Telecom Commission maintains the current reserve prices for 700MHz spectrum in India, there is the risk of a failed auction or, at a minimum, serious limitations on investment capability in next generation networks, denying the enabling social and economic power of this important spectrum resource to the citizens of India.

“The reserve prices for this much-needed spectrum are unrealistic in relation to the economics of the mobile industry. In fact, the total recommended reserve prices of INR 536,239 crore (over US$80 billion) for the spectrum bands in the auction are almost double the cost of all spectrum investment to date in India. This equates to more than 20 times the annual free cash flow of the entire mobile industry in India.

“The government’s decision to reduce Spectrum Usage Charges from 5% to 3% is a step in the right direction, but it will not do enough to offset such high spectrum prices. In competitive markets like India, setting reasonable reserve prices would allow auction mechanisms to work in determining the market price in assigning the spectrum.

“In the event that the spectrum reserve prices are not reduced, the Indian Government runs the risk that spectrum will go unsold, as has happened in Australia and recently in Senegal. This would be extremely damaging not only for the Indian mobile industry, but also for the country’s economy overall, depriving citizens and businesses in India to the full potential of high quality mobile broadband services.

“The GSMA urges the Indian Government to reconsider the auction reserve prices in order to better reflect local market conditions, allow competition in the market to determine fair prices for this spectrum, and help meet its objectives of increasing mobile broadband access for all.”

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