Regulatory issues continue to be in the news for operators in India as they look for progress on 5G spectrum pricing and the apparently more urgent issue of the fixing of floor prices for tariffs.
However, the 5G issue is more near term than it may seem. India’s 5G spectrum deployment plans are due be discussed at a key meeting of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) next month and operators want to see the speedy formation of a key inter-ministerial panel to finalise these plans.
India’s position on 5G needs to be communicated to ITU at the upcoming meeting on 23 June, but the relevant committee needs to be able to formally present India’s plans. It seems that no such committee yet exists, though, with 5G spectrum auctions delayed yet again, the government may not share the industry’s sense of urgency.
In any case, only 4G spectrum is likely to be auctioned this year, although a number of commentators have made the point that some of this spectrum may also be used for 5G.
Meanwhile the floor price issue rumbles on, with operators again asking the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to fix a minimum tariff for services in order to boost the health of the sector and aid future investment. Such a gesture could also help some of the big names cope with deferred spectrum and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents big names such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm, has requested a quick resolution of the floor price issue. However, whether the government, or rather TRAI, is minded to give them a speedy (and positive) response any time soon is a matter for debate.