Govt may face 3rd failed auction unless 5G spectrum base price is cut: Rajan Mittal - ET Telecom

Govt may face 3rd failed auction unless 5G spectrum base price is cut: Rajan Mittal – ET Telecom

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Govt may face 3rd failed auction unless 5G spectrum base price is cut: Rajan MittalKolkata: Bharti Enterprises vice chairman Rajan Mittal has called on the government to cut 5G spectrum base prices quickly, failing which he warned the country could be staring at a third failed auction in the near future.

“5G spectrum prices are huge and need to come down…we’ve already seen two failed auctions, and may see a third, if the government does not address the 5G spectrum pricing issue,” Mittal said the India Economic Conclave-2021 Thursday.

The government mopped up only Rs 77,814 crore from the recently-concluded 4G spectrum sale, selling 37% of the over 2300 units of airwaves across seven bands on sale. In October 2016 auction, the government had collected even less, a modest Rs 65,789 crore. In both the auctions, the coveted but pricey 700 MHz band went unsold due to what telcos said was its high price.

Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash has said that the unsold 700 Mhz spectrum may be offered in the upcoming auction where 3300-3600 MHz airwaves earmarked for 5G services will be offered. The government is yet to set any specific timeline for the next sale.

In this context, Mittal said the “government must ensure that adequate 5G spectrum is available for telcos and at affordable prices”.

He added that while India isn’t ready for next-gen 5G use cases such as robotics surgery and self-driving cars, a lot more needs to be done on the AI (artificial intelligence) front, especially to catch up with China.

“India remains weak on the AI front as we don’t have adequate patents…China is racing ahead, which is why, we need to invest much more in AI,” said the Bharti Enterprises vice chairman.

Mittal added that the combination of the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat push and the near-Rs 12,200 crore sops cleared under the production-linked incentive (PLI) policy for telecom gear could help boost India’s local manufacturing ambitions.“Given, the current geopolitical situation, especially where China stands in that context, there’s a real opportunity for India to raise the bar on the local manufacturing front in the digital space,” he said.

Since the outbreak of Sino-Indian border tensions last June, New Delhi had unofficially nudged private and state-run telcos to avoid Chinese gear. A recent network security directive and the telecom department subsequently amending telco permits, mandating them to use network gear only from trusted sources from June 15 is the first official step towards barring Chinese vendor involvement in Indian networks, especially with 5G in mind.

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