Telecom companies have urged the regulator to make 4G airwaves more affordable and unveil a long-term road map of the periodicity of auctions to provide clarity on spectrum availability and discourage irrational bidding.
Top executives of Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. met Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman RS Sharma on Wednesday. They sought an early reduction in the starting price of airwaves across the 900 MHz, 800 MHz and 1800 MHz bands to ensure there is enough money left to invest in broadband network rollouts, a person aware of the discussions said.
The Trai boss said the regulator would engage in a holistic consultation process with the industry next year on spectrum issues and look at how reserve prices are assessed. However, he is said to have clarified that the deliberations would not affect Trai’s recommendations in August on the pricing of 4G and 5G spectrum for the next sale, which the government is yet to finalise.
Sharma said the regulator has received “suggestions on a host of spectrum-related issues, including policy around future auctions, reserve price valuation methodology and matters linked to leasing, trading and surrendering of airwaves.”
The discussions with Sharma were open and constructive and related to spectrum issues, implementation of the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, opening up of new technology areas and challenges in setting up telecom infrastructure, P Balaji, chief regulatory & corporate affairs officer at Vodafone Idea who participated in the meeting, told ET.
“The telecom regulator conducted a transparent discussion on the opportunities and challenges for the telecom sector and we look forward to actively working and supporting the government and the regulator’s digital agenda,” Balaji said.
The executives are said to have reiterated their call for early rationalisation of hefty telecom levies — about Rs 32 of every Rs 100 they get goes to the government — especially when the sector continues to reel under almost Rs 8 lakh crore of debt and continuing price wars. They urged the regulator to suggest ways to speed up right-of-way approvals to achieve broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps speed to all Indians by 2022, as outlined in the new telecom policy.
Right of way refers to the legal right to set up network infrastructure such as towers and optic fibre cables along a specific route.