The government wants the sector to stabilise fully and an early sale could affect demand for airwaves, including the prized 5G. The sector experts believe that the deferment will be relief to the sector which sought that the auctions to be held late 2019 on account of the financial stress exacerbated by debt of nearly Rs 8 lakh crore.
According to an insider, “We need to give some time to the telcos after announcing the auction prices. Right now, who has the money to pay? Let the industry stabilise…we will most likely have the auctions next fiscal.”
Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended the starting prices for spectrum in the 4G bands of 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz, besides 5G airwaves in the 3300-3600 MHz bands.
As per TRAI, at least 8600 MHz of airwaves be offered to Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and the Vodafone India-Idea Cellular, estimated to fetch over Rs 5 lakh crore, if all bandwidth is sold at base price. The regulator, though, left the timing of the sale to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in a nod to the financial stress in the sector but also said the auction should not be delayed.
The DoT will now take a final decision on the pricing and timing before sending it to the Union cabinet for approval.