India seems to be set to auction new frequencies to allow local telcos to launch 5G services as the nation’s Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled plans for an auction later this year.
The official confirmed that operators are expected to launch 5G services commercially in the fiscal year ending March 2023.
“Spectrum auctions will be conducted in 2022 to facilitate the rollout of 5G mobile services within 2022-23 by private telecom providers,” Sitharaman said. The financial minister also announced in her budget speed that a Production-Linked Incentive program (PLI) will launch in order to build a 5G ecosystem within the country.
The rollout of 5G across India may happen much faster than other previous generation rollouts, said Peeyush Vaish, partner and telecom sector leader at Deloitte India, in published reports, noting that the financial minister has spoken of the extension of fiber to all villages by 2025.
Indian telecom operators have recently submitted comments to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) asking the government to cut the reserve price for 5G spectrum.
Operators are saying that the reserve price for the 5G spectrum needs to be cut down by more than 90% for the upcoming spectrum auction, with no upfront payment and a moratorium of 5-6 years.
In 2018, Trai had recommended a reserve price of INR 4.92 billion (currently $66.5 million) per megahertz for the 3.3-3.6 GHz band.
According to previous reports, India plans to award bands such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.3-3.6 GHz bands. Through the spectrum auction, operators will be also able to bid for spectrum in the millimeter-wave band.
Indian operators Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have recently received a six-month extension from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to conduct 5G trials. With this extension, the carriers will be able to carry out 5G trials until May next year. Initially, telcos had been authorized to test 5G technology until 26 November.
In May 2021, the DoT had awarded 5G trial spectrum for six months in the 700 Mhz, 3.5 Ghz and 26 Ghz bands, paving the way for local carriers to partner and develop 5G use cases.
Jio is currently testing its own indigenously developed 5G RAN and Core technologies, while Airtel and Vodafone Idea have partnered with Nokia and Ericsson to deploy trial networks in various cities.
Last month, Reliance Jio confirmed that it has completed the 5G coverage planning for 1,000 cities across the country. This coverage planning will enable the operator to roll out 5G services quickly once the government awards 5G spectrum later this year.
Jio said that it is now testing the rollout of its 5G services in India using various services including heat maps, 3D maps and ray-tracing technology.