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5G spectrum auction within this fiscal, price reforms on the cards

5G spectrum auction within this fiscal, price reforms on the cards
Photo Credit: 123RF.com

Union minister for communications and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad today cleared the air on 5G spectrum auction, saying it will be conducted before the end of the current fiscal. 

The minister also said that reforms are expected in the pricing of the 5G spectrum, a pain-point voiced by Reliance Jio during the inaugural session of the India Mobile Congress 2019 where the minister was speaking.

“As far as pricing of 5G spectrum is concerned, we are in the process of some reforms -- please wait for the result,” said the minister.

The 5G spectrum was priced at Rs 492 crore per megahertz for the 3,300-3,600 MHz band by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2018. Multiple telecom service providers have since said the cost was significantly higher than that in other geographies with Vodafone Idea indicating that it might have to stay out of the auction if the prices were not revised.

Reliance Jio board member Mahendra Nahata said the spectrum price in India was seven-times that of global standards. “Higher floor prices will lead to 5G networks being unviable and therefore getting delayed. An equilibrium, therefore, need to be established between government revenue and overall growth,” said Nahata.

The roadmap for the rollout of 5G technology in India is under deliberation with the government looking to speed up the spectrum auction,  which will have widespread implications on Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence.

As part of his speech, the minister further added the government was working on the data privacy law. “Security is an important issue. In the case of WhatsApp, we respect end-to-end encryption but law enforcement agencies should have some access to find out the originator of a message which spreads false rumours.”

During his India visit in July, WhatsApp global head Will Cathcart had said the company was committed to keeping user conversations private.

Recently, the United Kingdom had asked Facebook and WhatsApp to share users’ encrypted messages with the police for law enforcement.

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