RJio asks DoT to conduct spectrum auction soon

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on September 29, 2020 Published on September 29, 2020

Says 4-year delay has created dire scarcity, impacting quality and growth of services

Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio), a subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has asked the Centre to conduct the next round of spectrum auction at the earliest.

In a letter to the Department of Telecommunications, RJio said that more spectrum is needed in order for sustainable and orderly growth of the sector, to meet the national objectives and for provision of quality broadband for all. RJio’s push for additional spectrum comes even as incumbent operators Airtel and Vodafone Idea are struggling under mounting losses, massive debt and huge AGR payouts to the government. RJio, on the other hand, is flush with funds after undertaking a series of stake sale to multiple investors.

A total of 1461.5 MHz spectrum in paired bands and 790 MHz spectrum in unpaired bands with recommended reserve price value of ₹3.92-lakh crore is available with the DoT for auction. This has been lying unused for the last four years, it said.

A delay in auctions will keep huge amounts of spectrum vacant with the government, hurting the national exchequer and economy in such precarious economic times.

“We reiterate that in any case unsold spectrum is still better than unauctioned spectrum, which benefits no one,” the letter dated September 28, a copy of which was reviewed by BusinessLine, said.


Pause in auctions

Spectrum auctions were conducted every year from 2012 to 2016. But there has been no spectrum sale over the last four years.

“We are unable to find any reasonable rationale behind this sudden pause in a successful and fruitful policy of auctioning all available spectrum every year,” RJio said.

RJio also accused rival service providers of stifling competition, as they have amassed large amount of spectrum through acquisitions, while some companies are merely interested in perpetuating their 2G technologies and monetising old equipment.

“We submit that the nation-building policies should not be kept hostage to vested interests of such a few,” the letter added.

Also read: Despite 2G spectrum expiry, BSNL services unhindered

In 2018, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India submitted its recommendations for various conditions of spectrum auction, which was reconsidered in 2019. The Digital Communications Commission (DCC) had also recommended the reserve price, quantity of spectrum and other associated conditions in May 2020 for approval of the Cabinet.

Also read: RJio eyeing bigger foothold in postpaid with new plan launch

However, notice inviting applications are yet to be issued.

At present, unavailability of additional spectrum is managed to some extent by deploying new towers, however, this is not a long-term or permanent solution, it added.

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Published on September 29, 2020
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