The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday floated a consultation paper to seek comments to finalise the methodology for setting reserve prices for the auction of the third batch of private FM radio frequencies, under the FM Radio Phase III policy.

This comes after the Information & Broadcasting Ministry sought TRAI’s recommendation on reserve prices for auction of radio frequencies in 283 cities to expand private FM radio across the country. This includes 23 existing cities where the government has auctioned private FM radio frequencies in the previous batches, while 260 cities will see auction of private FM radio frequencies for the first time.

Currently, 356 private FM radio channels are operational in India.

With rising adoption of online platforms to listen to music and lack of inbuilt FM radio receivers in many new smartphones, the regulator has sought views on the variables that should be looked at to determine the reserve price for the auction of the frequencies in these 283 cities.

With regards to the 23 existing cities, TRAI has sought views of stakeholders on whether the highest bid price received for the auction of frequencies in a city in Phase-II should be continued to be used as the reserve price for the existing cities or some other methodology needs to be used for setting the reserve price.

As far as new cities are concerned, the regulator has sought views on the whether variables such as population of a city, per capita income, listenership of FM Radio and per capita gross revenues of existing FM Radio operators are adequate to determine valuation of FM Radio channels in new cities and what additional variables should be considered for the same.

Meanwhile, the regulator also believes that in order to facilitate transition to digital radio broadcasting from analogue, the auction of the remaining frequencies should be done by permitting radio broadcasters to use any technology analog or digital or both for transmission. It has, therefore, sought views that in case this is done, whether private FM radio broadcasters should be permitted to broadcast multiple channels on single frequency.