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Telcos reluctant to bid for 5G spectrum on concerns of high prices, low quantum: COAI

New Delhi: Adding to the growing chorus for lowering of Trai-recommended rates, industry body COAI on Tuesday said its member companies have indicated reluctance in picking up 5G spectrum in the upcoming government-organised sale of radiowaves, concerned over high prices and less-then-adequate quantum.

Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) Director-General Rajan Mathews said there could be some takers for 4G spectrum in the auctions, which the government hopes to conduct in the current financial year.

"In spectrum auctions, for sub-1GHz, it is possible that someone might want to pick up some spectrum for 4G but 5G pricing is still the main challenge. Our members have indicated that at the current prices, it does not make sense to invest this kind of money," Mathews told PTI.

On Monday, the Broadband India Forum (BIF) had claimed that radiowaves unsold in past auctions, because they were priced high, had an implication of Rs 5.4 lakh crore due to economic benefits lost, and that the government needs to ensure adequacy and "reasonable" rates for upcoming 5G auction.

Spectrum price in India is, by far, the most important factor in determining the fate of an auction, its success or failure, BIF had said, adding that prices should trigger maximum sale and, hence, optimal realisation of direct and indirect benefits, and not be driven by short-term financial gains.

The government in August-end invited bids for selection of agency that will conduct spectrum auctions in various bands, including 5G, -- setting the stage for mega sale of over 8000 MHz of radiowaves, at a start price of over Rs 5.7 lakh crore. The deadline for submission of the bids by prospective auctioneers is September 25.

But, the industry laments that the spectrum prices proposed in India are four times higher than other markets.