The Indian government has issued spectrum auctions notification that it earlier announced would take place this year. The auction is scheduled to begin on March 3, with pre-bid conferences and procedural steps to be completed by that time. The public company MSTC Limited, formerly the Metal Scrap Trade Corporation, will be administering the auction online.
“Rights to use spectrum at specified frequencies in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands (subject to fulfilment of eligibility conditions, relevant licence conditions and any particular conditions pertaining to specific frequency blocks) for a period of twenty (20) years” will be auctioned, the Department of Telecommunications said in its bid document.
While it is unlikely for any telecom operator to use the spectrum obtained in this auction for 5G technology, they may find it useful to bolster their networks at a time when data consumption has been increasing steadily. Vi and Airtel have been refarming spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai, two of the most teledense circles in India, to be better positioned to address demand for data, the companies said in press statements over the last few days.
However, a lot of the spectrum on sale may not end up being sold due to high reserve prices at a time when telecom operators are managing finances austerely due to competitive and fiscal pressures. “While the Govt. has addressed the requirement for more spectrum, lower reserve prices would have provided additional resources for network expansion to the telcos. High reserve prices in past auctions have resulted in large amounts of spectrum remaining unsold,” the Cellular Operators Association of India’s Director General had said when the spectrum auction was announced in December.