General election over, India’s 5G auction facing further delays – Total Telecom

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The process has been pushed back to the end of the month, now set to take place on June 25

Earlier this year and after considerable delay, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) announced that it had finalised the details for the country’s latest 5G spectrum auction, setting a date of May 20.

By April, however, it had become clear that the ongoing general election – the largest democratic vote ever to take place – could interfere with proceedings. As a result, the DoT delayed the auction to June 6, the day after the voting concluded.

Now, just a day before this revised deadline, the DoT is once again seeking to delay the process, with reports suggesting the auction will be pushed back to June 25.

No explanation has been given for this increased delay.

The auction is set to make additional spectrum available in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz, 2,500 MHz, 3,300 MHz, and 26 GHz bands, in total worth roughly $11 billion.

The broad range of low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum should represent a great opportunity for the operators to expand their spectrum portfolios in the areas they need to most. In reality, however, the spectrum auction is shaping up to be something of a disappointment. Initial deposits from the operators are reportedly 82% lower than they were for the 5G auction in 2022, indicating a general unwillingness to shell out for additional spectrum.

The reasoning behind this seems simple enough: demand remains too low.

India’s first 5G spectrum auction in 2022 saw Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea (now Vi) all take home spectrum licences. Since then, both Jio and Airtel have been hard at work rolling out their 5G networks, while Vodafone Idea delayed the process due to its financial woes. Idea says it is aiming to launch commercial services in the second half of this year.

But despite swift rollouts from the country’s two largest operators, uptake has been slow to follow, with both operators reporting relatively little in the way of 5G revenues in their latest financials. As such, it makes sense that they are reticent to buy more spectrum just yet.

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