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What the telecom minister, TRAI chair, and telcos said about 5G: India Mobile Congress

Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for IT and Telecom, promised reforms in 5G spectrum pricing and said spectrum auctions will take place in this fiscal year, with the data to be announced soon. He said that the government was “aware and alive to the challenges faced by the telecommunications industry”. Prasad was speaking at the third edition of the India Mobile Congress 2019, which was organised by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Easing ROW rules: The minister said he would soon meet with state IT Ministers and other stakeholders to address concerns around Right of Way (ROW) rules, which are considered to be the key enablers for deployment of optic fibre and mobile tower infrastructure in India. It’s worth noting that the ROW rules failed to include tower companies from seeking benefits under the rules as it stated that only a ‘telecom service licensee’ could avail the benefits, as per The Economic Times.

What are the RoW rules?: It aims to rationalise administrative expenses across the country to a maximum of Rs 1000 per km for optic fibre, and a maximum of Rs 10, 000 per application for telecom towers. It also mandates the development of an electronic application process within one year of the roll-out of ROW rules, a single clearance window for application, a designation of nodal officers for appropriate authorities, and fast-tracking decisions on RoW permits.

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Telecom operators raise issues, Jio asks for revision of 5G base price

High spectrum cost expected to take a toll on telecom sector: Airtel

  • Vice-chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal, urged the government to restore the “financial health” of the telecom sector. Mittal said that endless litigation in the sector is causing stress, and that lit igation worth over Rs 1 lakh crore needs to be settled.
  • Mittal added that GST credit needs to be unlocked, license fee and spectrum usage charges need to be lowered, and the customs duty on telecom equipment needs to be revised to bring down the cost of doing business.

Jio asked for lower 5G spectrum base price

  • Reliance Jio Infocomm director Mahendra Nath asked the government to take a “critical look” at the price of 5G spectrum which he said needs to be revised, or it would delay the launch of the 5G. He noted that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has currently recommended the pricing of the airwaves at around Rs 50,000 crore for 100 Mhz of pan India 5G spectrum and Rs 492 crore per MHz of airwaves in the 3300-3600 Mhz band.
  • He also urged the government to make airwaves available to the telecom companies in between auctions

Government need to ensure enabling regulatory environment: Vodafone Idea

  • Vodafone Idea chairman, KM Birla, said that a “thriving telecom sector” is vital for Digital India and asked the government to ensure an “enabling regulatory environment”. He also urged the telecom ministry to make necessary investments in the sector.
  • He stated that India’s broadband user base of 600 million is second only to China, and added that Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics will help in digital growth.

It is important to identify India-specific 5G use cases: TRAI

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said the identification of relevant 5G technology use cases is critical as “5G can solve many problems”, such as proving the faster speed of the internet and lesser bugs. He added that the regulator has already recommended for 5G base pricing to the DoT and now it is up to the government to accept or modify it.

“We have recommended 25 Mhz of spectrum in the 3.3 GHz – 3.6 GHz band to be allocated to the industry (including private players) in a closed environment, like in Germany. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) should give 25 MHz for industrial automation”, RS Sharma said.

TRAI did not revise recommended 5G spectrum price: The Digital Communications Commission, which is the highest decision-making body in the telecom sector, had asked TRAI to review the 5G reserve price in June. However, the regulator stood by Rs 492 crore per MHz of airwaves in the 3300-3600 Mhz band.

5G connectivity to grow: While speaking during the seminar, a London based group GSMA said that 5G connections in India are expected to reach 88 million by 2025, while connected devices are expected to see growth after the advent of IoT.

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