NEW DELHI: The government is currently in the midst of reform in spectrum pricing, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad assured executives of India’s largest telecom sector companies on Monday.
The minister’s statement at the first day of the inaugural India Mobile Congress came even as representatives of top telecom firms like Rakesh Bharti Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Kumar Mangalam Birla of Vodafone Idea and Mahendra Nahata of Reliance Jio all red-flagged high reserve prices of 5G spectrum a key challenge to the sector while speaking at the event.
“We are working on this and have put a process in place for reforming the pricing,” Prasad said, adding the government was alive to the industry’s concerns. He also reiterated that the upcoming spectrum auctions will be held by the end of this financial year and that the dates are to be announced soon.
Mittal, for his part, had pointed out that high levels of litigation, and high license and spectrum usage charges need to be lowered, while Jio’s member of the board Nahata said that “higher floor prices will lead to 5G networks being unviable and therefore getting delayed”.
“An equilibrium needs to be established between government revenue and overall growth,” he said in what is Jio’s first statement of support for reducing 5G prices.
While the government had earlier planned to finish the auctions by the end of the calendar year, base prices for the spectrum are yet to be finalised in the face of serious opposition to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommended spectrum prices.
The ball is now in the government’s court since TRAI has refused to revise its recommendation price below the Rs 492 crore per MHz of airwaves in the 3300-3600 Mhz band.
The industry reacted positively to the minister’s assurance, with industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) president Director General Rajan Mathews saying that pricing reforms in spectrum will be a big relief for telecom companies.