No plan yet to give telcos option to buy spectrum annually: Manoj Sinha


NEW DELHI: The government has no immediate plan to allow telecom companies to buy spectrum annually and hasn’t decided when airwaves will be auctioned next.

“The government has not yet made any plan to provide industry with an option to buy spectrum every year,” Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said in a written reply to a question in parliament.

Responding to a separate query on whether another spectrum auction is being considered, the minister said, “The government has not yet decided to conduct another spectrum auction immediately.”

The minister’s comment is at variance with the stand of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Former telecom secretary JS Deepak had said publicly last month that the government was looking at holding airwave sales every year and that it will reach out to the regulator for its recommendations.

“We are not worried if there is no demand for spectrum. We are interested in giving the industry an opportunity to buy spectrum,” said Deepak, who has since been appointed India’s permanent representative at the World Trade Organisation and will take up the new role in June.

Deepak added that he wanted India to keep up with the world with regard to technology such as the 5G standard, saying the country had delayed the auction of 3G and 4G spectrum.

The industry’s response at the 2016 auction was muted because of high spectrum costs. Of Rs 5.66 lakh crore worth of spectrum offered in October 2016, the DoT received Rs 65,789 crore of bids, with the prized 700 MHz band unsold.

The telecom minister said on Wednesday that the department had conducted spectrum auctions every year since 2012 in various bands to address shortages of airwaves, irrespective of whether there was interest from the industry.

The government has permitted sharing and trading of spectrum among telecom service providers to alleviate concerns over limited supply of airwaves, which has been a consistent grouse of the industry.