India’s government has decided to delay the country’s scheduled spectrum auctions into the second half of 2019 following feedback from operators.
The country’s service providers are struggling with mounting debt burdens due to the fierce price war that has been ongoing since Reliance Jio’s entry to the market in 2016, reports the Economic Times. These factors, together with the consolidation that they have spurred, have forced the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to revise down its expectations for the next round of 4G auctions.
Market leader Vodafone Idea has called for auctions to be delayed into 2020 on the grounds that spectrum acquisition will not be a priority until a 5G ecosystem is ready. Second-placed operator Bharti Airtel said in November that it would not participate in an early 5G spectrum auction as there was not yet a business case, noting the lack of devices compatible with the technology. Executives expressed the belief that 5G would not be deployed for at least another three years, and stated that they did not wish to see an auction before 2020.
However, third-placed Reliance Jio is keen to acquire more airwaves so is calling for earlier auctions of 4G and 5G spectrum. In August, regulator TRAI proposed that over 8,500MHz of spectrum in nine bands be released for auction with lower reserve prices to encourage participation.
While the government was keen to hold the bidding within the fiscal year ending March 2019, no date was confirmed. Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan confirmed that the DoT has not set a date for 4G or 5G auctions, but is reviewing the proposals made by TRAI and India’s 5G task force.