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TRAI holds industry-wide consultation on spectrum auction

The telecom regulator held industry-wide consultation on spectrum auction but stopped short of committing a timeframe for finalising its views on pricing and timing for sale of airwaves, saying it will give the recommendations “as soon as possible”.

“I cannot tell you what will be the end date (for the recommendations). As always we will try to do it as soon as possible…we will have to do a lot of exercises in order to arrive at reserve prices,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma said on the sidelines of an open house.

On the industry opinion that timing is not conducive now for holding spectrum auction given the financial stress, Sharma said decision on all those aspects will be taken after a considered view.

“There are a host of questions on need and timing and what should be the reserve price. I cannot say what course of action we will take. The recommendations will be determined on the basis of inputs and what stakeholders have said,” Sharma added.

Asked whether spectrum prices will be pegged lower this time given the ‘exorbitant’ rates in 2016 auctions, especially 700 MHz band, Sharma declined to comment.

“It is a difficult area to come to a universal…conclusion on what is the right price…,” he said.

The last auction held in 2016 had seen a muted response mainly because of high spectrum cost, leading to only Rs 65,789 crore worth of radio waves being sold against an expectation of Rs 5.6 lakh crore. Nearly 60 per cent of the radio waves, including premium 4G bands, had remained unsold in that auction.

Last year, following a reference from Telecom Department, the TRAI issued a consultation paper on spectrum auction for bands like 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, and other bands.

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