India waits for 5G eco-system for spectrum auction in 2019-end

Aruna Sundararajan, secretary of Department of Telecommunications (DoT), indicated that India may conduct the next round of spectrum auctions in the second half of 2019.
India 5G market forecast by GSMAThe main priority for India government is to put in place the ecosystem for 5G services by the second half of 2019.

There are concerns that 5G smartphones will not be affordable in the initial phase of 5G launches in 2019 globally. Indian mobile operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea do not want to make any investment in 5G till 2020.

Slow 5G growth

Indian mobile operators’ investment towards Capex will be $8.1 billion in 2020 as compared with $5.7 billion in 2017, showing a CAGR growth of –11 percent, GSMA said earlier.

A GSMA report earlier said that 5G will account for 4.6 percent of total connections in India in 2025. 4G connections will grow to 63 percent of total connections in 2025 from 21 percent in 2017.

3G connections will grow to 18 percent of total connections in 2025 from 15 percent in 2017. This shows that Indian mobile operators’ huge investment in 3G networks and spectrum did not bring enough returns – primarily due to competition.

India’s 2G connections will drop to 15 percent of total connections in 2025 from 65 percent in 2017.

Not ready?

Most of the mobile operators are keen to participate in the spectrum auction once the 5G ecosystem is ready in India. Recently, Vodafone Idea approached the DoT asking to postpone spectrum auction till 2020.

Indian telecom regulator TRAI has submitted its preliminary recommendations on spectrum price for some of the main bands including spectrum for both 4G and 5G services. Department of Telecommunications is looking at these recommendations. The task force has also given a broader set of spectrum bands for 5G services.

The India government has earlier decided to de-license a set of spectrum in the 5 GHz band for providing WiFi and partially 5G services.

“What we are saying is that the ecosystem for 5G services will be ready by the second half of next year, so we will be ready for the spectrum auctions. I am here talking only about 5G, and other spectrum auctions can happen simultaneously,” Aruna Sundararajan told media on the sidelines of an event.

India will start preliminary 5G trials in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

TRAI had recently recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of spectrum with estimated base price of around Rs 4.9 lakh crore, including frequencies of 5G services.

The 5G committee of the Telecom Ministry has said about 6,000 MHz of spectrum can be made available.

5G services can bring $120 billion in additional revenue for the government annually and create four-million new jobs by 2022, according to the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP-2018).

The policy also targets to triple the mobile towers to 50 lakh by 2022 from around 18 lakh right now. However, right of way remains a concern and the government will work with State governments on this, Aruna Sundararajan said.

Meanwhile, Telecom Commission will meet on Thursday to discuss various issues relating to BharatNet and broadband.