Govt. to hold spectrum auctions this year: Prasad

5G trials will begin in 100 days

The government plans to hold auctions for spectrum, including for 5G services, in the current calendar year, Union Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday.

Mr. Prasad, who took over from Manoj Sinha, added that the government intends to begin 5G trials in the next 100 days.

The decision is significant as spectrum auctions are a major source of revenue — the 2016-17 auctions yielded ₹65,789 crore.

Industry cautious

However, major telecom firms have opposed putting 5G spectrum on sale, arguing that the industry needs time to develop India-specific use cases for the next-generation technology. They also pointed out that prices recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are too high for the financially stressed sector.

Mr. Prasad said he would soon hold discussions with industry representatives on the challenges they face and work on addressing them.

Asked about whether Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei will be allowed to participate in the upcoming 5G trials, the Minister said it was a “complex issue” and would be looked at seriously. “We will take a firm view on it. There are also security issues…it is not only a matter of technology.”

Talking about the loss-making telecom PSUS — BNSL and MTNL — Mr. Prasad said state-owned firms are important for maintaining a “sober equilibrium” in the market and he will prioritise their revival. “It is in national interest that they remain healthy, we are working on that…But, they also need to become professional.” Mr. Prasad also said that a Data Protection Act would be be high on the government’s priority. However, he did not specify whether it would be brought in during the upcoming Parliament session.

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