The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is set to give its recommendation on 5G spectrum pricing by the end of this month, after the Prime Minister’s Office asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure 5G rollout by August 15.

In a letter sent to the TRAI in February, DoT has requested the regulator to expedite its deliberations and provide their recommendations at the earliest as the PMO requested the department to ensure 5G deployment before August 15, 2022. Industry insiders anticipate price recommendations for spectrum dropping by next week, thus kick-starting the 5G auction.

Revision of availability

TRAI will also be increasing availability of spectrum in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz spectrum band for the forthcoming auction, at the request of DoT. The department has asked the regulator to increase spectrum availability in these bands.

Sources told BusinessLine that availability in the 800MHz may be revised to 15 blocks of 1.25MHz each, from the 14 blocks of 1.23 MHz offered previously. Revision of spectrum availability in the 800MHz band has been opposed by operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, who cite issues related to interference. In the 900MHz band, TRAI could make an additional 34MHz spectrum available.

Upgrading existing network

Additional availability of spectrum in the 800MHz and 900MHz bands will be beneficial for operators as it would allow them to expand on their existing capacities. The 800MHz and 900Mhz are spectrums on which operators have set up several of their existing 4G network. Thus, operators could use these bands to upgrade the already established 4G network. “... which is still going to be the bread and butter for operators to expand capacities and onboard subscribers, as they roll out the 5G network,” said a senior telecommunications executive.

Additional availability of spectrum on these bands could ensure that operators are able to pick up more spectrum on these bands at a reasonable price. “Sub GHz bands (800MHz and 900MHz) can also deploy 5G networks, so operators might pick them up if they are made available at a fair price,” said another executive.

The PMO has also set up a monitoring group to oversee 5G deployment in India.