DCC to meet next month to decide on spectrum pricing

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 24, 2019 16:48 hrs
Telecom Tower (PTI photo)

New Delhi: The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the inter-ministerial and highest decision making body of Telecom Ministry will take a call in its meeting next month on the crucial reserve prices of the spectrum for the upcoming auction which is likely in December and January next, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said here on Tuesday.

"We will hold the meeting sometime next month. TRAI has given the recommendations on auction prices, the DCC will consider it and then we will have to take a cabinet approval. It will be premature for me to say what will be the decision," Prakash said.

The secretary said the decision will have to be taken quickly over this. "We're planning to do the auctions by December end or January. If we have to hold the spectrum auction by December-January, then we will have to take a call in the interim period," Prakash said, at the sidelines of a government event along with FICCI.

On the issue of Chinese telecom vendor Huawei's participation in the Indian telecom sector given recurrent questions over the security issues, Prakash said any decision on Huawei will have to be in the best interest of the country. Huawei has been seeking clarity from the government on participation in 5G trials and its future partnerships for equipments deployment in India in partnership with the service providers.

On the issue of revival of state run telcos - BSNL and MTNL, the telecom secretary said that the DoT is, "working on a revival package," and "actively considering how best to address the issue".

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had first sent its suggestions on 5G, in August last year. TRAI has priced the 3,300-3,600 MHz band, expected to be the primary band for 5G services, at Rs 492 crore per megahertz.

Bharti Airtel has said these prices are exorbitant and it would not participate in any auction at these prices. In South Korea, the same band was priced at roughly Rs 131 crore per megahertz in auctions held in June last year.

TRAI had recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies, including those for 5G services, at an estimated total base price of Rs 4.9 lakh crore.

The decision on spectrum prices including that of 5G airwaves which will be sold for the first time has been a debatable issue for the industry.

The mobile industry has the grievance that the TRAI recommended prices are high and untenable and with the telcos' tough financial situations and huge losses, they cannot bid at the TRAI recommended prices. The telcos have petitioned the DoT to reduce the reserve prices for the auction specially the 5G spectrum base price.

Sensing the urgency, the DoT had sent the proposals back to TRAI to reconsider the base prices which the regulator turned down and stuck to its stand on original decision. DoT then set up an internal panel to look at the Trai auction price proposals which is yet to submit its report.