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    DoT Asks Trai to Speed Up 5G Pricing Views, says PMO

    The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the telecom regulator to speed up its recommendations on pricing of 5G spectrum, possibly before March, nudged by the wishes of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for an ‘initial launch’ of the next generation services by August 15 in the country.

    PMO has requested DoT to work towards the initial launch of 5G by 15th August, 2022, and also explore the possibility of obtaining requisite recommendations from Trai before March – 22,” DoT has said in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) dated February 22. “In view of the above, Trai is requested to expedite the matter and provide the recommendations at the earliest.”

    The DoT’s nudge to the telecom regulator on 5G pricing comes within weeks of the telecom regulator holding a marathon open house consultation where Trai Chairman PD Vaghela had told stakeholders about the complexity of pricing the spectrum, which required a considerable amount of time to study.

    In the letter to Trai, DoT has also communicated availability of extra spectrum in the 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz and the 1800 Mhz bands.

    The department has communicated availability of additional 34 Mhz spectrum across the country in the 900 MHz band, addition to the 65.2 Mhz for which it has already sought the regulator’s pricing recommendations. In the 1800 Mhz band, it has made available 10 Mhz of spectrum in Haryana.

    However, the quantum of how much additional bandwidth can be made available in the 800 Mhz band without any interference in networks has the industry divided.
    The DoT has said that Reliance Jio’s view is that LTE (4G) technology doesn’t require guard band to avoid interference and a block of 1.25 Mhz be made available to operators in place of 1.23 Mhz which was historically allotted to deploy the previous generation of technology, CDMA. The technology is no longer in use and the band has emerged as a dominant band for LTE.
    Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, DoT said, though have cited possible interference. As a result, If the telecom regulator agrees with the view that guard bands can be removed and a total of 16 blocks of spectrum in this band could be allotted, then the currently available 81.25 could be augmented to 136.25. But, if the regulator feels otherwise, then the available bandwidth in the 800 Mhz frequency would rise to 108.75 Mhz.

    The telecom industry has termed the current price of 5G spectrum in the 3300 MHz-3600 MHz band – Rs492 a MHz – as recommended by Trai as exorbitant, and called for it to be drastically cut by as much as 95%. The government has also made it clear that it wouldn’t hesitate to rationalise the price of the coveted airwaves in order to make the availability of services affordable for users.

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