Mumbai: The roll-out of 5G spectrum is expected to start in October, and within a year or two, we should have a good significant presence of 5G in the country, stated Union Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw in Mumbai today. Addressing a press conference on ‘Indian 5G Opportunity’ here, the Union Minister thanked the telecom industry for great response to the recently held 5G spectrum auction. “5G services rollout will happen in October beginning, spectrum auctions will be completed in next 2-3 days, soon afterwards, spectrum allocation will happen, we have already told industry that they should act fast after allocation in order to do the set-up and roll out services soon, this is the type of planning which is going on now”, he said.
Earlier in the day, the Union Minister addressed in the valedictory session of telecom investors’ roundtable on ‘Opportunities in 5G Operations and Telecom Reforms”. There he urged that we have to be a leader everywhere, in 5G and 6G technology.
In this context, the Minister said that the telecom sector is performing well since the September reforms. “The 5G spectrum auction is doing well shows that the industry is taking off, the results are very good, close to Rs. 1.49 lakh crore has been committed by the industry for buying spectrum, this shows how the sector is maturing in a very nice way”, said the Minister. Explaining what went behind this successful spectrum auction, Shri Vaishnaw said, “On the one hand, we reduced the reserve price, on the other hand, we also reduced the Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC); this was a significant change which ensured good response, Secondly, the payment terms have been changed. There was a huge upfront payment which had to be paid in earlier auctions, now entire amount can be paid in 20 instalments, which reduces pressure on payment and enables operators to focus on enhancing reach of network. Thirdly, bank guarantee which used to be huge and which was a significant cost burden has been done away with”.
As regards pricing of 5G services, Shri Vaishnaw said that, on an average in the world, cost of telecom services is Rs. 2,400 while it is around Rs. 200 per month in India. Data cost is lowest in India in the world, he added. The Minister furthers said that we will probably buck the global trend and have a much faster rollout of 5G compared to many other geographies since our other costs are significantly under control. BSNL will also, as a market balancer, roll out its 5G very rapidly, he added.
“We believe that we will probably buck the trend of having a much faster rollout of 5G compared to many other geographies since our other costs are significantly under control, BSNL will also, as a market balancer, roll out its 5G very rapidly, with these things in place, we think that we are in good position and the results will show as they have shown in the past”, said the Union Minister.
Shri Vaishnaw also commented that spectrum as a resource should be utilized in a technology-neutral manner, options such as leasing spectrum, using 4G spectrum for 5G, etc. Should all be allowed, these should be reformed that there is a degree of certainty for the industry.
Championing local companies in the 5G journey
Shri Vaishnaw said, a complete ecosystem of telecom has to be developed with software solutions and end-to-end 4G tech stack, so that we set industry standards so that our IP rights are recognized all over the world.
Reforms in telecom sector
Shri Vaishnaw explained how the ailing telecom sector which was in deep financial stress, had lot of legacy issues and ‘where Adjusted Gross Revenue was a dreaded word’, made a turn-around. The Minister informed that PM Shri Modi had given a very clear goal of making India’s telecom regulation globally benchmarked so that people from all over the world may come and copy India’s telecom regulation. In last September, the first package of reforms was started after courts gave final judgement.
“We started with this entire reform journey, the first reform was on OSP, then, we had various structural and procedural reforms, then we had WPC reforms, another very big reform for having non public networks and opening up spectrum leasing has happened”.
In the next phase, the entire process of giving license was changed in such a manner that a single license today never pends for more than 30 days, unless there is a very big policy issue such as satellite communication which needs to be decided by a body like TRAI. Almost 75% of applications for setting up of towers are now cleared within a few minutes, added the Minister. 2.5 lakh tower permissions have been given since then, he informed.
“The Telecom industry has come out of the old phase, entering a sunrise stage, where new infusion of capital investment can happen”, said Shri Vaishnaw.
Infrastructure related reforms have also been done. In Feb-March, 2022, a Right of Way portal was developed, in which practically all states joined, making it easier to obtain Right of Way at present.
The Minister also stated that an auction calendar is being prepared as per requirement of the industry.
PLI scheme for telecom sector
This also fetched very good response, stated Shri Vaishnaw. Close to 31 companies got permission under PLI and almost a lakh crore incremental production is going on under the scheme. The Department of Telecom has decided to have design-led manufacturing with start-ups developing products. Over the next 2-3 years, these firms are expected to become exporters and make their mark in the world, said the Minister.
The Union Minister stated that the Ministry’s next goal is to change the entire legal structure governing the telecom industry and doing away with archaic laws. “Now we are going to clean up the telecom legal framework, so that there is no disruption to the industry, and we are clearly focused towards the future, in a fast-changing industry, the law should be an enabler, it should not become an obstruction”, he said. The Union Minister invited stakeholders’ suggestions on the consultation paper uploaded in DoT portal.