'Government reviewing 5G reserve pricing’

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on October 14, 2019 Published on October 14, 2019

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, with Vijay Shakhar Sharma, founder, P aytm, and Hari Om Rai,CMD, Lava International Ltd at the India Mobile Congress, in New Delhi, on Monday   -  Kamal Narang

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad assures that spectrum auctions will be held this fiscal

Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that the government was working on a review of the reserve prices for 5G spectrum for the upcoming auctions.

The Minister also assured that the auctions will happen ‘within this financial year’.

“Spectrum auctions will happen within this financial year and we are also working on the pricing of spectrum. We are in the process of reforms for spectrum pricing, so wait for sometime,” he said, urging the telcos to wait for a few days for clarity.

Speaking at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019, Prasad said that the government was aware of the challenges being faced by the industry. His statement came amid widespread concerns over exorbitant pricing of radio waves, including 5G.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had last year recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies, including those for 5G services, at an estimated total base price of ₹4.9 lakh crore, but the financially-stressed industry had argued that the proposed prices are unaffordable and exorbitant.

Some industry players pointed out that the average price of 5G band auctioned in countries such as South Korea, Spain, the UK and Italy works out to ₹84 crore/MHz, whereas TRAI’s recommended price for the same band is five to six times higher at ₹492 crore/MHz.

Reacting to Prasad’s statements on reserve pricing and auctions, R.S. Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, who also attended the biggest event on telecom in South Asia, said: “As a part of the process, we have already recommended the 5G base price. Now, it is up to the government to accept or modify it.”

Ensuring Internet security

Meanwhile, on WhatsApp and Facebook, Prasad said that India respects encryption but insisted that law enforcement agencies should be able to identify source of messages, wherever they are being circulated to fuel rumours and violence.

The Internet must be stable, safe and secure and “we must ensure this,” he said. The issue of traceability has been a flashpoint between the government and WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned company has so far resisted India’s demand for identification of message originators, arguing that doing so would undermine its policy on privacy and end-to-end encryption.

“We respect encryption but where the same message is being relayed repeatedly at the same time, the same area and on the same issue to create chaos and spread false rumours, law enforcement agencies must have access...source of nuisance must be identified to deal with circulation of false rumours in such cases,” added Prasad.

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Published on October 14, 2019
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