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Telecom operators urge for ‘fair play to prevent back door entry’ in upcoming spectrum auctions

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The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on Thursday said administrative allocation of spectrum for private 5G networks will be against tenets of level playing field and asked for ‘Fair Play’ to prevent back door entry to big tech for 5G.

The development comes after billionaire Gautam Adani’s group making a surprise entry into the race to acquire telecom spectrum that will pitch it directly against Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio and Sunil Mittal-owned Bharti Airtel in the upcoming auction.

“Any consideration of administrative allocation of spectrum for such networks is fundamentally against principles of level playing field and effectively provides a backdoor entry to big technology players to provide 5G services and solutions to enterprises in India without equivalent regulatory compliance and payment of levies that TSPs are subjected to,” SP Kochhar, Director-General, COAI, said.

COAI represents telecom service providers (TSPs) such as Airtel, Reliance Jio and Voadfone-Idea.

“We are happy to note that companies wanting to use 5G spectrum have made applications for open bidding of the spectrum through a transparent auction process, which ensures that level playing field is maintained and all interested parties bid for the spectrum required by them. India’s structured licensing framework has helped orderly growth of India’s digital connectivity landscape, the opening up of access to spectrum to enterprises directly disturbs the level playing field,” Kochhar said.

The spectrum should not be provided on administrative basis as it leads to no business case for the rollout of 5G networks in the country, he said.

Business viability

“If the independent entities set up private captive networks with direct 5G spectrum allotment by Department of Telecommunications (DoT), it will diminish the revenue so much that there will be no viable business case left for the TSPs and there will not remain any need for 5G networks rollout by TSPs,” he further said.

It is important to understand that licensed access service providers are fully capable of providing these services most competitively and economically compared to private companies, he said.

“Any consideration of administrative allocation of spectrum for such networks is fundamentally against principles of level playing field and effectively provides a backdoor entry to big technology players to provide 5G services and solutions to enterprises in India without equivalent regulatory compliance and payment of levies that TSPs are subjected to,” Kochhar added.

COAI in June had also written to the DoT asking the government to ensure that a level-playing field is maintained between the incumbents and new entrants in terms of licence fees and meeting other regulatory conditions.

Published on

July 14, 2022



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