Telcos cry ‘disappointment’ at Trai’s spectrum recommendations

NEW DELHI: A day after regulator Trai gave recommendations for a mega spectrum auction with a near 40% price cut across some frequencies to spur 5G telephony, the mobile operators refused to show enthusiasm with the proposals, saying they were “disappointed” by the measures and complaining that the reserve prices are “too high”.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the grouping representing top private operators such as Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea, said that the industry’s plea for a sharper cut in reserve prices was ignored by the regulator as the latter also decided to charge extra for the ten additional years of spectrum that had been approved by the telecom ministry.

“COAI is disappointed by Trai’s recommendations for auction of 5G spectrum bands. Give the recent seminal reforms for the telecom sector announced by the Government, these recommendations are one step backwards than forward towards building a digitally-connected India.

The spectrum pricing recommended by Trai is too high,” COAI said. The recommendations are currently being studied by the telecom ministry, before they are taken up by the Union Cabinet, and COAI feels that its views would be factored in before a final approval. COAI said that the spectrum prices suggested by Trai will dissuade the industry from going for aggressive network rollouts which requires massive investments.

“Also, by introducing mandatory rollout obligations for 5G networks without even factoring the huge cost of such rollout, Trai has delinked itself from reality and is running counter to the government’s efforts of enhancing ease of doing business,” COAI said. It also objected to Trai’s suggestion of allowing private captive networks for enterprises, saying the regulator is “dramatically altering the industry dynamics and hurting the financial health of the industry” rather than improving it.

“Telecom service providers have and going forward will invest lakhs of crore of rupees in network rollouts. Enterprise services constitute 30-40% of the industry’s overall revenues. Private networks once again disincentivizes the telecom industry to invest in networks and continue paying high levies and taxes,” the industry body said.

Trai chairman PD Vaghela had on Monday told TOI said that the regulator had carried out a detailed review of the views of all stakeholders before coming out with the critical recommendations. “We have considered new data and information, while also taking stock of the industry and other stakeholders’ comments. We feel that these recommendations are healthy for the country’s telecom sector, though the final view will be taken by the government,” Vaghela had said.